Signs You Have a Great Job … or Not

Signs you have a great job … or not by Jeanne Sahadi

This article, while presenting an overly simplistic view in my opinion, actually provides some good reminders. The article focuses on 12 questions that seem to be the focus of a recent business book. And some of those questions provide good reminders to managers of things they should pay attention to, such as:

  • Do I know what’s expected of me at work?
  • At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  • In the last 7 days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  • Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  • Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?

For me, this list is more valuable than most of these types of things you see in “pop management” articles. Maybe my mood (I played some good basketball today, which always puts me a good mood) is causing me to be overly positive, but I actually think this article is worth a few minutes to read and then some reflection.

I believe managers need to look to provide opportunities for the people that work with you. They need to make time for doing so (because it is something that often is neglected). If someone doesn’t want new opportunities, that is fine, but don’t accept that as a permanent state. Make sure you continue to offer opportunities, people may want to change at a later date. It is easy to focus on meeting goals (which you should be trying to eliminate from your management system but…) and fire fighting. Don’t forget to help people grow.

This also relates to the question “do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.” A manager must balance what people would like to do (and other long term system factors) and what is best for the company today. Sometimes the organization may need someone to work in an area where they are less skilled. That is fine. In that case the manager is optimizing the system by sub-optimizing that individuals performance: just don’t forget that is what is being done.

And don’t forgot for most people this can be stressful. So try to adjust the system so you don’t over burden people for too long. When someone is learning a new skill they will often need to spend time developing (which mean they won’t be doing what they do best). Again this is expected but managers, by and large, don’t do enough to support development in my opinion.

Ok, moving past the potentially basketball induced rose colored view; while I find this article worth reading I still find the following statement meaningless at best:

I asked Coffman what percentage of companies he thinks actually pass the 12-question test. His estimate: No more than 15 percent. But within a company, he said, individual departments may meet the test, even if the company overall doesn’t.

This and other such statements seem to drive so much reporting. And, to me, they do nothing but provide vastly oversimplified views that provide no real value to managers trying to improve.

I also am extremely skeptical of statement like:

“We were searching for those special questions where the most engaged employees … answered positively, and everyone else …. answered neutrally or negatively,”

I find that such statement seem to be made for every claimed new management strategy. And most of those strategies seem to offer very little of value. You will get all sorts of correlation in data if you look at enough data: the conclusions people draw from such correlations are often useless.

An example I remember is from Statistics for Experimenters (by George Box, William Hunter (my father) and Stu Hunter (not related): page 8 shows a graph of the number of storks and the population of Oldenburg. As the book says: “Although in this example few would be led to hypothesize that the increase in the number of storks caused the observed increase in population, investigators are sometimes guilty of this mistake in other contexts.”

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