Saturday, September 24, 2011

if you feel comfortable at work, watch your back!

This year I took my first full time job in a unionised and (sort of) public service environment. It has been a real shock to the system. Some of the things that struck me included how protective people were of their "patch", how defensive they got if you asked questions, and how little some people seemed to do for a lot of money.

This all stems from one thing: people have been allowed to do what they want whilst business has been lucrative. Good times have allowed them to combine their hobbies and other personal interests with their work.

My background is in corporate and professional services, where people's activity reports justify their continued tenure. This clearly wasn't how things were presented in the workplaces I have worked in. On the contrary: people took pride in being able to report on what they had done. As a manager, the reports I get from my team are used to illustrate the value of that team to the people making the bigger decisions. As I can't see everything that is being done first hand, like any manager I need people to report on their weekly activities as they relate to the pre established goals of the department.

The company you work for is not there to finance your personal interests, but for better or worse (I think its worse) when things are really good, people are not held to account in the same way as when things are bad. Some of the interests people have pursued in my new workplace are expensive to maintain and ultimately add no real value to the organisation that justifies the expense. The most frustrating part is no evaluation is done on whether to keep pursuing the activities based on the return on investment to the business. Similarly, nothing was done to establish how and when to implement certain activities and methodologies in the first place.

Unfortunately, when challenged on this, certain people get particularly defensive, as the main reason they remained in the company was because they got away with so much (this is my assumption based on the reactions I have seen). Some have become "one trick ponies" who have put so much effort into one direction that they are unable to do anything else effectively. sometimes even that "one trick" is all "smoke and mirrors".

To be fair some people who appeared to be slacking off, but who in reality, were previously provided with no real direction, have risen to the new challenges and are relishing the opportunities presented to them in the new paradigm.

It surpasses me that there are still work situations that exist where people feel justified to do very little or pursue their own interests. I read the paper and I watch the news, and I see that the world economy has a local impact. If I want to keep my job, I work hard and help my boss and my company achieve their goals.

In these trying times, where companies are reporting huge losses, wholesale redundancies and downsizing, and you feel comfortable at work just coasting along, I suggest you watch your back!

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