Monday, January 23, 2020

First feedback from our survey

As organizations push harder to lower costs and boost productivity, the people who work for them are feeling ever greater strain. That's the message that's coming through clearly from a preliminary look at the survey I launched a week or so ago.

What is the single problem people find most critical?It's finding time to think and plan and do my own work. 67% of people rate that currently as a "critical" or "essential" area for them. In the same vein, 53% say they're feeling swamped by conficting demands; 43% say they're not enjoying their jobs anymore; and 47% even say they're unsure about what's expected of me.
The drive to do more with fewer resources, a constant beat of saving money by defering essential activities is creating a situation where failure is inevitiable but the timing of that failure is the only thing in doubt.
It seems that old-fashioned "command and control" management is very much alive and well. Organizations are using open pressure to drive people harder. There's a pattern that is coming through, which can be summarized as demanding that people meet the targets set for them, even if they're unreasonable, and labeling any who don't as unsatisfactory, uncommitted or poor workers. One respondent describes this in stark terms:
My perception is that the "chain of command" has turned into a way of sending blame and stress down the chain for decisions made in a self imposed vacuum at the top of the chain. I don't know how to enable my staff to succeed and enjoy work when it seems my management only sets us up to fail over and over with more unreasonable expectations each time.
Senior executives come in for a great deal of criticism, not just for the demands they make, but for the way they force middle and junior managers to relay that same, unfeeling culture downwards. Here's what one person wrote:
I have a boss that expects immediate results on zero budget and highly limited staff, but he expects the results to be as though we had a huge staff and a multibillion dollar budget. I don't want to transfer the feeling of frantic insanity I feel to my subordinates, but I also need to get the results quickly and done well, so I have to apply some amount of pressure. It's a difficult balancing act that I feel I'm failing.
Another sees the problem as endemic to the management culture:
Problems are delegated, not tasks. There is a culture that says "If you can't meet the deadline it must be because you're not trying hard enough", rather than "You're not meeting the deadline. Is there a problem? Can we help?"
And while it's often the people who are blamed, poor systems are at the root of it all:
I am not in any way empowered to fix the devastatingly inefficient systems that are currently in place. All I can do is look on in horror.
It seems there's a crisis gathering itself; a crisis of people's wishes to live a sensible lifestyle versus the endless demands of corporations to produce greater profit. This sets up a chain effect, where each higher level of management passes some (maybe most) of its own pressures downwards to those immediately below. Eventually, the pressures reach those who can delegate no further.

There's still time to add your voice to this survey, which is shaping up to provide considerable insight into the real problems facing people at work today. Just use this link to add your voice.

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Mike L. said...

And unfortunately the "Top Job" to recommend as a career path for your kids, according to Fast Times, is "Lawyer" - whose main purpose seems to be making life more stressful for the rest of us ...

3:23 PM  
Brent Matzelle said...

Hello Adrian, unfortunately I couldn't find your email so I am posting this in your comments.

Jeremy Zawodny has made some recent posts that demonstrate how people are dealing with work stress:

Work vs. Life Balance in the Extreme

Interesting quote:
"I've realized that work and non-work time blend together so much nowadays that it's really hard to feel like you're "on vacation" unless you go away for an extended time or forcibly disconnect yourself from the world."

Too Fat? Blame the Economy

Interesting quote:
"Are people really happier and less stressed? The stories I read indicate that we're at or near all-time highs for work related stress and anxiety."

Keep up the excellent work with your blog!

Brent Matzelle ([email protected])

11:49 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...


Thanks for your comment. I agree that it's hard to feel much sympathy for lawyers sometimes, but I believe they're also under a great deal of pressure (like all professionals) to keep increasing "billable hours." So I guess they may earn a lot of cash, but at what price to their lives?


Thanks for your comment too and the very interesting links. I'm glad you're enjoying "Slow Leadership."

12:32 PM  

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