“A good boss makes his men realise they have more ability than they think they have so that they consistently do better work than they thought they could” (Charles Erwin Wilson)

I am surprised at how many people hate work. Wherever I go, I come across hundreds of people who prefer the duvet rather than the desk, the coffee station rather than the computer and “five to four” rather than “five to eight”. Work is an ordeal for them – a necessity to be endured, but not to be enjoyed. What I find even more remarkable in relation to this group of disgruntled workers is the superb environments in which many of them work – fully-equipped and stocked kitchens, the latest technology accessible to all, funky and often modern furniture, tapped music, climatically controlled spaces, training facilities, boardrooms and meeting rooms, high-speed internet connectivity, undercover parking, after-school care for children – the list is endless. My house doesn’t have all of this – even the kitchen seems under-stocked! Perhaps the real reasons for people not enjoying their work lie elsewhere?

In their best-selling book on employee retention, “Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em”, Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans rank the top reasons employees remain in an organisation and go on to note that research states the following reasons for leaving, in order of priority:

  • Poor relationships with their leaders
  • Lack of meaningful work
  • Little or no opportunity for growth and development
  • Quality of life – lack of a work/home balance
  • Did not connect or fit within the organisation

In the above list, the boss seems to be the biggest stumbling block to people realising work satisfaction! Clearly, some bosses are not creating the environment where employees feel valued, feel they can make a significant contribution and feel that work is a place where they can grow and develop themselves. Bosses are not doing the job for which they are being paid – leading people well!

Shane J Lopez, of the Gallup Organisation, did research with 8 000 people who proclaimed they loved their work and then published his findings in an article in the New York Times. Generally, these work people were happy for four key factors (my additions in parentheses):

  • They felt that they, and their team-mates, were allowed to leverage their strengths (the boss expressing trust and respect)
  • They saw themselves as an important part of the organisation’s future (the boss perhaps connected their respective roles to organisational vision, values and goals)
  • They were surrounded by team members who cared about their overall well-being (the boss maybe set the example and expected the same standard from employees)
  • They were excited about the future because of the leader’s enthusiasm and vision (the boss going about his/her interaction with employees with passion, good communication and positive emotion)

Lopez made two more observations well worth mentioning here:

  • People who want the most from their work go boss-shopping – they may change shifts or make lateral moves in a company or industry to work for bosses who can become influential leaders in their lives. It is interesting that the phrase “in their lives” was used – the employee who enjoys work manages to connect his/her career with a fulfilled life.
  • People want a boss who taps into their inner sense of purpose and who trusts them.

The above explicit leadership role for bosses seems to be seldom experienced by the majority of employees. No wonder work is a “drag” for these employees. Bosses need to create the environment where employees feel trusted, valued, encouraged to give their best and where there is a deep respect for the individual’s and team’s contribution to the values and goals of the company. In such an environment, employees will flourish and blossom – if the environment doesn’t exist, employees will go “boss-shopping”!

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