Inspiring Organizational Growth
I HATE MY JOB!
Have you ever heard that from an employee? They are seemingly disgruntled and grumpy all of the time. They come to work in a bad mood and seem to pull everyone down with them. You don’t know what to do or how to get them out of this “funk” they are in. You bring them in for a meeting and inevitably ask the question we all ask: “So what are your aspirations? Do you have some goals in the organization? Where do you see yourself in five years?”
What comes next is a forty-five-minute rant about how the organization has never done anything for them and they have watched as other, non-worthy people move up the corporate ladder and take positions they wanted. When you ask if they applied for the jobs or promotions, they yell back “NO, what’s the point?” Are you smiling and picturing this exact scenario? The one where you wish you could just take the whole question back, and/or have your administrative assistant interrupt the meeting with an urgent message you need to immediately tend to? Do you want to just offer some quick solution based comments "I'll give you a new project to work on" hoping that will help and they will calm down?
What if, before jumping into problem-solving mode or escaping to a mystery emergency, you considered saying this- “How can I support you?” It doesn’t allude to the fact that you have all the answers or can solve all the problems, but it does indicate you are open to listening and learning more.
Try it! The employee comes into your office. You need to discuss their attitude at work and how it is impacting other employees. However, instead of going with the assumption that their frustration lies primarily with the fact they have been unable to find their real purpose or have unmet goals, let’s ask this instead: “Jerry, I have noticed that you seem really frustrated at work lately. I wanted to meet with you in hopes that I could better understand how I can support you as a manager. You are a valued employee, and I just want to try and understand more about what is behind your frustration.” Now the next part is even harder--say nothing else. Stop talking. Just listen. If they don’t reply initially, that’s okay. Just sit in silence. You will be amazed with what happens.
Discovering What Is At the Root
Jerry will likely start to spew out some of the negative messaging about how they hate the organization and see themselves as a victim in an unfair, non-transparent process. But underneath this you will also hear their interests and needs. They want to be respected for their experience and want to be challenged and feel worthy of their contributions. You may even start to hear details that pertain to their individual and unique challenges. Maybe they tell you that they don’t actually hate the job they are in, they just find the shift work really challenging and they have issues sleeping at night. Maybe it’s the fact that working Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., doesn’t allow them to get their son to needed medical appointments. Maybe they applied for and got this job years ago because it was the responsible thing to do and met family obligations, but it has never fulfilled their passion or interest. Maybe they really just want to quit but financially they can’t afford to, and that reality is very stressful.
Sharing What They Need and Why
All of a sudden, your disgruntled employee is sharing what they need and why. The discussion has moved from “what the organization is doing to make them miserable” to more of one that allows you to discover who they are and what they need. All of a sudden, you have new potential ideas about how you can help. But stop! Don’t go there. We need to help Jerry generate his own ideas, not offer solutions, and take the time to ensure we haven’t missed anything. This is not a conversation that has to end in one meeting. Sometimes by scheduling a second meeting you are allowing the him time to reflect on what was discussed and consider new options.
Challenging But Worth It
It’s not easy; in fact, sometimes these conversations will end up with you as exhausted as they sound (from biting your tongue and controlling your urge to resort to telling them to "grow up"), but it builds needed trust. And in the end that disgruntled employee, can become your greatest asset. Instead of leaving the organization, or swamping you with grievances, Jerry learns he can trust you, he can approach you issues, and you will help him generate potential solutions.
If you would like to learn more about employee engagement, and how to effectively inspire employees, please visit my website www.knowingwhoyoulead.com. The concepts found in this blog are taken from my new book Knowing Who You Lead- helping leaders to understand why issues are occurring.
Carrie-Lynn Hotson is the author of Knowing Who You Lead, has created a series of blog posts to generate discussion, insight and inspire transformational leadership growth.