Follow by Email

Search This Blog

Monday, February 27, 2012

Is your job like chewing a ‘sweetless’ gum?

It is likely that a number of people reading this article today are chewing a gum. And it is also likely that the gum you are chewing has kept you company for a little longer by now. The interesting thing about chewing gum is that it is flavored with sugars that are really attractive to the tongue for a short while and once the person chewing it gets used to the gum in the mouth, they keep chewing the gum long after the sugar content of gone.

The gum has a way of engaging your mind and mouth and makes the chewer still enjoy the company of the gum even without sugar. It keeps the person loyal to the gum and only throws it away due to chewing fatigue or when they must eat food.
This experience seems to have some interesting parallelism with the workplace. On the initial days at work, there is excitement as staff get to enjoy the new roles, relationships and challenges. The staff look forward to the following morning with great vigor as each day brings with it great opportunities for learning. The employer makes all effort to ensure the staff is well taken care of and opportunities for self-development easily splashed along the path.

 As months and years pass, the staff still remain glued to the employer as the gum is still in the mouth. Once in a while, the employer adds some sugar onto the gum in the form of staff loans, training opportunities or promotions and this keeps the staff chewing the gum. As the staff engage with the employer, there gets to a point when they feel fatigued and realize they are no longer finding sweetness in the gum. They drag themselves every morning and only consider the end month as the greatest moment to be with the employer.

It could be that the gum lost its sweetness but the staff is still chewing it. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, even when the gum loses its sweetness, the person chewing it still utilizes the same level of chewing energy though the levels of personal satisfaction are minimal. Such staff keep up the smile on the face even when the light in the heart is long gone. They endure their work as opposed to enjoying but since the gum has been fixed in their mouths and the employer promises to add some occasional sugar to it, they hung on.

The truth is many people continue to chew the gum until they have some substitute in the mouth. Other mouth uses, other than food that must be swallowed, do not necessitate the removal of the gum. For the staff whose roles have turned out to be like chewing gum, an opportunity to chew something else could be what they are seeking for greater satisfaction. The fact that people report to work daily and pursue their daily tasks is never an indicator of the level of satisfaction each of them is getting from the work. 

Some could just be providing good company to the rest yet both seem busy chewing gum. In the event the employee is not adding the sweetener to the gum, it is the responsibility of the staff to top up the gum with some sweeter experiences and this can be homegrown even without the intervention of the employer.

So, the next time to see someone chewing gum, do not be tempted to ask them for a chicklet as they may be chewing theirs to keep boredom at bay and not necessarily enjoying the sweetness therein.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Do work ethics ever lead to profitability?

We are living in an era where ethical behavior is at times frowned upon, with workers wondering whether it is still possible to live and engage in ethical behavior in business. A quick survey among workers indicates that there seems to be a feeling that when push comes to shove at work, ethics are usually the considerations that are disregarded. It is however important to note that ethical business can lead to great profits and lead to business and career sustainability.
Allow me to walk you through the corridors and rooms in the hotel industry. This is one of the most sensitive sectors with regard to ethical employee behavior. Johnson has been working in one of the top notch hotels in the city over the last 5 years. Listening to him describe reasons why ethics is at the heart of all they do reveals that ethical behavior is key to profitability. As much as some people would want to consider ethics as a thing of the ‘past’, it seems like the great success factor and profitable businesses seem to be anchoring their great profits on ethical staff behavior.

Being a 5 star hotel, Johnson plays host to high flying clients on business trips. As he goes about his businesses, he realizes that as much as the hotel has indicated clearly in the room that the guests are advised to take care of their personal valuables, many guests seem to believe that all is safe in the hotel rooms. On several occasions, he has noted valuable electronics ranging from laptops to expensive digital video and still cameras left in the open as guests left for workshop sessions or dinner. At other times, guests have left huge amounts of cash unattended on top of beds and Johnson has had to keep the valuables safely.

On some other occasions, Johnson notes that there are many relatively young guests who reside in the hotel and have to be made to feel safe and free in the environment. Guests have to walk along long and lonely corridors at odd hours of the night and have to feel protected. On some occasions, Johnson has had to provide direction to the hotel guests to certain places in the city or have had to provide indicative rates for gift items and services. As much as he could have been tempted on some occasions to consider over pricing or over quoting to the guests, he has always remained true to the organisational ethical standards.

These standards spell out the expected ethical conduct of the employees across the ranks and seems to be bearing fruit. Over the last two years since the management and staff developed the ethical practice policies, the hotel has been registering improved profits. The number of return guests has been increasing by the month and the rating of customer satisfaction is on the rise. The management has also noted that some of the guests are requesting for an increased length of stay, a clear indicator that the guests are registering satisfaction at the hotel.

It could be a small practice but corporate commitment to ethical business engagement and client relations could just be what your institution has been missing to break through the glass ceiling.

Your ringtone matters in job search

The author is an Organizational Development Practitioner
What is your ringtone and why did you consider it over all the other available tunes? What message do you intend to tell the world through your ringtone? Believe it or not but your ringtone says a lot about who you are and could be a significant factor for consideration during job search. Your ring tone can either support or deny you a job opportunity depending on the interpretation of the person on the other side of the call connection.

With the advent of ‘skiza’ tunes, many people are opting to subscribe to ring tunes that will hopefully entertain the caller as they wait to receive the call or one that will pass a certain message. This passes as a harmless practice until you lose a dream job opportunity due to the perception of the potential employer about your ring tone. Ringtones can be interpreted to communicate your values in life, your perception about men and women and about situations in life. Some tones carry explicit religious undertones or political preferences. All this is a communication about who you are and what you value and are aligned to.

As much as it may not be wrong to let the whole world know what you ascribe to or what your personal values are, it is also wise to appreciate that not all people out there consider your values as appropriate. Consider Janet’s experience for a second. After about 7 months of a potential employer’s silence, she received a call on an afternoon on her way from lunch break. This was exciting. She remembered she had submitted the particular application many months ago and was hence excited that she could be considered long after she had lost hope. She was sure this could just be what she was destined for as it came back as a surprise.

The caller had sought for information about her references and her current engagement should they want to consider her for an interview. Janet provided all the required information and waited through the week for the invitation for the interview. One week passed followed by weeks of silence from the potential employer. In the quietness of her moments, she sought to consider what could just have happened and after gathering courage called the employer to check out whether the process was still on. To her surprise, she was informed that the recruitment process had been concluded.

Seeking to know why she had been unsuccessful, she was informed ( in confidence) by the receptionist that she had been considered unfit for the position due to her ‘skiza’ tune that sounded offensive and against the values and aspirations of the employer. This sounded like a surprise but she honestly knew that her ring tone would be considered unacceptable in some quarters. She has since decided to slide back to conservatism in terms of ring tones with the hope she would rather lose a job due to lack of professional qualifications rather than due to an unwelcome ringtone.

And so, as you consider your work and daily engagements, seek to check whether you could be denying yourself opportunities due to your ringtone. As a marketer, you may just lose a client due to your ‘skiza’ tone or could just lose the trust of your subordinates when they listen to messages through your phone that may consider inappropriate.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What about giving staff space to work

The author is an Organizational Development Practitioner

When you buy a dog, you should not go out yourself to bark, so goes the proverb. As much as this sounds hilarious as you would not expect a man who goes out to bark having locked in the dog, it is a possibility at the workplace. A close interaction with workers indicate that there are instances when they have been ‘forced’ to be on the periphery of critical work engagements even when they had been hired specifically for those tasks.

This is commonly referred to as micromanagement. According to the Wikipedia, micromanagement is a management style where a manager closely observes or controls the work of his or her subordinates or employees. Micromanagement generally has a negative connotation due to the results it brings forth. In most cases, micromanagement starts off as a harmless engagement where the boss seeks to provide guidance to the new hire as they settle at work. This is usually taken kindly since the employee considers this as part of company policy for mentorship or induction. 

But as time progresses, when the employee realises that the boss has been unable to detach and keeps guiding and pulling the strings, the employees start to get a bit uncomfortable. This is when the push, shove and resistance set in. Employees want to feel they have been provided with space to perform the tasks placed on their in-trays with minimal interference. Being provided with room to be creative and learn on the job is a huge esteem booster as employees struggle with concepts and practices and eventually crack the nuts through trials and persistence engagement.

Micromanagement has been seen a clear indicator of lack of trust by the boss in the supervised. In could be that the boss does not trust the capacity of the employee or the quality of the results. In as much as the boss could be under pressure to produce results, micromanaging is never the best route to get your results. It has been suggested that you could consider enhancing the capacities of the employee in the areas you realize they need support in. With this, you will spend less time enhancing staff capacity and the rest of your time basking in the glory of beautiful results.
Micromanagement is one of the key killers of team work. You could authorize the spending to the last coin for company team building, but your effort could boil down to naught if staff are not provided with space to operate. Staff want to feel part of the system that produces the company results and want to feel valued. Taking up roles designated for other staff amounts to a no-confidence vote in the staff. This gradually erodes the commitment and attachment of the employees to the company since they start to feel they are unable to attribute any portion of the results to their effort.

Finally, we all manage risks differently. When managers are risk averse, there is a tendency to micromanage. The fear of failure has been known to grip managers who subsequently play very close ball with the staff they supervise just to ensure no errors are committed and no losses incurred. As much as this helps reduce losses in the short term, it has the undesired effect of stifling creativity and learning at work. Let staff explore, fail, learn and grow. That is what a workplace should be all about. It should not be an environment that structurally prohibits creativity and risk taking.