What Discourages You Most In Your Job? (What I Learned About Work By Winning The Lottery: Part 2)

Mark Sagor

demotivated“If management stopped demotivating their employees then they wouldn’t have to worry so much about motivating them.” W. Edwards Deming

If you read my blog post last week you know that I was the winner of The Listserve email lottery and as a result had the opportunity to ask 5 questions to a diverse group of 25,000 strangers.

This week I have been reviewing the answers I received to one of those questions: “What discourages you most in your job?”

Stewart, who recently retired after a 46 year career which included managerial roles answered: Lack of appreciation; an employee provides skills, time and effort in return for wages. It makes a great difference in all areas to be appreciated by those in charge.”

Raymond, a 17 year old at the other end of the career path, responded with: “When your superiors don’t care about you or what they are teaching you.”

Heidi, who was recently laid off, said: “Feeling I’m not being heard, or even considered.”

Triana, a young professional from Mexico City currently living in the D.C. area answered: “Lack of trust, obsessive personalities leading to too much micromanagement.”

Jonathan, a college student, said: “Lack of feedback. How else am I supposed to improve?”

Alexandra, a project manager, observed: “I get discouraged when the pipeline of tasks is so great that I never get a sensation of having completed something. We need to remember to acknowledge and celebrate successes before we go head-down into the next big project.”

Sorina, a Romanian psychologist and software tester said: “When there is no feedback on positive aspects of your work and only negative feedback is given.”

One respondent, who asked to remain anonymous, answered: “Bosses who are more concerned about numbers and goals over the well-being of their workforce drive me to despair.”

This is a small, but representative, sampling of the hundreds of responses I received. When asked about the specific psychological issue of being discouraged people overwhelmingly point to the behavior of their leaders as the determining factor. Please note that not a single person said they were most discouraged by too much work, too many hours or not enough pay although these are undoubtedly significant problems for many people.

In my role as an EAP consultant I am no stranger to the devastating impact of poor leadership on employee productivity and health, however, I continue to wonder why companies put up with poor managers who undermine organizational success by discouraging their subordinates.

Companies need to call out managers whose leadership approach does not include listening to employees, giving positive feedback, and celebrating team accomplishments. Their long term success depends on it.

It isn’t enough to “make your numbers” in the short term if you are doing it at the expense of employee well-being and morale. We need leaders who can both meet their financial targets and develop their employees.

This point was brilliantly articulated by Mark Bertolini CEO of Aetna (who is an advocate of mindful leadership) speaking at the recent Wisdom 2.0 Business Conference:

Aetna (a 180 year old insurance company with 35,000 employees) evaluates and compensates their leaders 50% on their scorecards (whether they make their numbers) and 50% on whether they behave properly as a leader.

In the words of Mr. Bertolini’s succinct and pointed motto, when you work at Aetna: “You cannot be a jerk and get paid.”

That’s the kind of exquisite common sense that builds successful companies.