Work doesn't need to be a drag. Yet when reviewing the volumes of research on work-related topics, the state of the workplace feels like a drag for too many people. Consider these stats:
- A 2014 LinkedIn study of 18,000 employees found that only 15 percent were satisfied with their jobs
- Root Inc. found that 68 percent of employees believed their senior managers were more focused on their own needs and less interested in inspiring others
- A Towers Watson study found that less than half of respondents believed senior managers were interested in employees' well-being
We cannot escape the need to work. It shapes our identity. It provides for our families. In short, work is what we do, in part, to learn about ourselves and live a life worth living.
A dilemma emerges given the importance of work in our lives and its depleting influence on us. If work is not a positive experience, it's a big chunk of our time we dislike.
Yet amidst the dreary realities of the modern workplace, there is hope. What many overlook, is 3influence on the work experience. Gallup recently released research showing that leaders account for a 70 percent variance on employee engagement. How is this possible? Employees' immediate boss has the greatest influence on the work environment.
If a leader has that much influence on how employees experience work, what then can a leader do to make the workplace positive? The following are rebellious ways a leader can turn dismal into optimistic. They're rebellious because not enough leaders are doing them. It's the bold leader who wants to make a difference in her employees' lives that stands out today.
1. Be a Context Shaper
Everyone knows about the importance of culture. For an individual leader, however, it's difficult to change culture. Culture is built on a history of how things are done in an organization. Climate, on the other hand, is more easily influenced by the immediate leader. Climate is what it feels like to work somewhere. It's rooted in people's perceptions. Climate shapes the context in which people work.
To positively influence employees' perceptions of the workplace, think of yourself as a context shaper. Your leadership style has the greatest influence on climate: Are you welcoming, thoughtful, social, or curious? These styles invite positivity. Whereas distracted, unobservant, independent, or uninvolved invite deleterious affects on people, their potential, and ultimately their performance.
2. Believe Employees Are Mature, Fully Functioning Adults
At Netflix they have a belief that "freedom and responsibility" are central to employees acting like adults. In their much viewed SlideShare on their company culture, Netflix creates a context and culture that expects people to act in the best interest of the company. Consequently, they've eliminated policies that contradict their belief that employees are mature, fully functioning adults. For example, Netflix abandoned its vacation policy, believing employees will take the time they need, no reporting necessary.
While you may not be in a position to axe your company's vacation policy, you can give employees the freedom, autonomy, and choice to accomplish their work and make decisions that ultimately are best for the company and the customer. People rise to the level of expectations you set.
3. Create Relatedness
Psychologist Carol Ryff has identified relatedness as one of the dimensions of psychological well-being. Psychological well-being is linked to happiness, positive affect, and life satisfaction. For too long these outcomes have been separated from work-life. For a positive workplace to flourish, employees also need to experience these three outcomes. One way to do this is to help create a sense of relatedness amongst your employees.
Relatedness is an intrinsic motivator. You can't make employees feel it. However, you can lead in such a way that it is something employees believe is part of their work experience.
- Create frequent and satisfying interactions amongst your employees
- Partner new employees with senior employees
- Have a team mascot
- Encourage team members to meet in cafes--onsite or offsite
Survival of the human species has taught us that we can accomplish more together. This is certainly true in our hyper-connected world.
While trends influencing the workplace paint a dismal picture, it doesn't mean it has to be your reality. You have the greatest influence on the experience employees have in the workplace. The first step to do something about it is to choose to act. The three powerful ways listed above is a great place to begin.