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Is your organisation driving unproductive behaviours?

Unproductive traits

Arriving on time, leaving late, being busy....Productive traits?  Maybe not....

In 2004 I started a business, had a baby and embarked on a major reno project.  That's right, there's nothing like cramming as much in as you can when you hit 30 and seeing how much you can really handle.

In all seriousness, to say it was hard would be an understatement but I made it work.  Through scheduling and keeping laser focused on the work I needed to get done for clients, meant I could fit in all the other 'life' tasks I had.  I loved it for 6-7 years and then I started to wonder if I was missing out.  Missing morning teas and team get-togethers, Christmas parties and paid sick leave.  Not to mention the vibe of a good team brainstorm.  I also wanted to work in the corporate world again so I could better serve my clients, know their world and understand their challenges so.... I decided to go back to being an employee for a while.

The excitement of induction and being the new person, the fresh stationary and fruit bowls - arrgghhh, this is what I'd been missing....or was it?!
The honeymoon phase was short lived when I realised I would bust a gut and feel completely stressed to get school lunch made, breakfast done and do school drop off to try and meet that 8.30am don't be late, start time.
Let me be honest here, there were times I just didn't make it.  8.30 was sometimes 8.40 or 8.45.  There were a lot of dirty looks and for me, a lot of guilt but then I started to wonder why these timings were so important.  I would arrive to people making coffee, having a good ol' chit chat (not about work), checking Facebook and generally not really starting any  'real' work till about 9am.
I was often deemed as quiet as I'd have my head down getting as much work done as possible so I could leave at 5 to get my son from after-school care.

I started to notice some things in my 'corporate world' that made me go hmmmm:

  • People strived to be seen arriving at 8.30 and not leaving till after 5pm (whether they were working or not was beside the point)
  • No one cared what you were doing at your desk as long as it looked like you were working
  • Work that took me 2 days to do, took other people 2 weeks but no one seemed to care
  • Playing politics was the key to promotions (not necessarily getting successful outcomes or making an impact)
  • Working from home meant you were a slacker (how could you be working if people couldn't see you?!)
  • Leaving to pick up your kids, just before or on the dot of 5pm, meant you weren't career focused...enough
  • Tattoo's and piercings, even if they were cultural, meant you'd never be taken seriously as a true productive, professional

I remember performance reviews always had managers telling me I was too quiet and that I might want to arrive on time a bit more often.... but never once mentioned that I wasn't doing enough work. Funny that.
It dawned on me then that this wonderful 'corporate world' that raved about how important results and productivity was, actually created an environment that drove unproductive behaviours, it punished people for being too productive, without realising it.
I mean, why get something done in an hour when you could take all day?  You certainly weren't going to be praised for finishing early.  In fact what would usually happen is that you'd get more work.  Yep, while you work your a** off to get a full project finished by the end of the week, your ol' mate sitting beside you would finish their one page word doc.  Then you'd both get that 2.5% pay rise in your annual review.  Not terribly motivating is it?!

You might be saying to yourself, Sheryl, that happened in the past, it doesn't happen now.  Well my friend I'm here to tell you it's still happening.  I hear it from friends, old workmates and frustrated employees of many a modern business.

So, what can your organisation do to break away from breeding unproductive behaviours?
Here's what I think works well:

  1. Focus on the outcomes and impacts you want to see in the business, on a project or whatever product or service you're working on
  2. Communicate goals and expectations clearly and often
  3. Stop watching the clock and start clearing road-blocks for your people
  4. Give people a deadline and then trust them to get the job done (their way)
  5. Check-in with people - no need for micromanaging but checking in at least once a week to see how they are, how things are progressing and if they need anything from you is always appreciated
  6. Let people do life stuff when they need to do it.  If people know the deadline and know what's expected why does it matter how and when it get's done, as long as it happens when you need it
  7. Tell people how much you appreciate their time and effort and be sincere (this applies to team leaders and team members - that's right, tell your boss this because the likelihood is they probably don't here it much if they're in middle management)
  8. Some people like quiet spaces, some people like it loud and lively. Let people be in a space where they feel they're most productive.  One size does not fit all and usually it doesn't need to
  9. Reflect on your bias's - does it really matter if someone has a tattoo on their arm, their nose is pierced or a moko kauae is adorned on their chin?  Is that affecting their job? No - then stop worrying about it and get back to work ;)

I'm back in my own business now, which I love.  I still miss the buzz of a busy office and the vibe of a big team brainstorm but I don't miss the politics, clock watching and strange unwritten rules.
Times aren't changing, they've changed and fewer and fewer people want to work for organisations that focus on the wrong areas and aren't 'life' friendly.   If your organisation has those unproductive traits now is the time to have the conversation about changing the way you work.

Need a hand with making that change?  Feel free to get in touch with us.