Monday, January 18, 2010

Worker Satisfaction at an All Time Low

A recent news story caught my attention and I thought was worth commenting on here. Here's the story. The jist of the story is that worker satisfaction is at its lowest since data has been collected on the subject. The major idea of the article was that this low satisfaction has long term implications for innovation and excellence. Of course this is true, the issue is risk. When people do not feel safe, they don't take risks. Risk taking is what produces innovation, excitement, and a feeling of satisfaction with the job. Accomplishing something hard is very rewarding. Three things that workers said in the survey were;

1. Fewer workers consider their jobs to be interesting.

2. Incomes have not kept up with inflation.

3. The soaring cost of health insurance has eaten into workers' take-home pay.

The second and third things are certainly not trivial, but are a sign of the times with the width and depth of the recession that we are in. The first item is what interests me however because it makes sense to the way the workplace has changed over the past two years. The idea is survival. If you have a job, thank your lucky stars and do whatever you have to to keep it as long as you can. The problem with this is that we can't keep playing whack-a-mole with our workforce and expect them to stick their neck out and take a risk for the business. Risk taking is necessary for businesses to thrive and survive. The role of the leader is to create an environment where risk taking is allowed. Let me be clear on what this means. Risk is a two sided coin. Doing something hard is and should be very rewarding, but taking a risk and failing to achieve success is rewarding too, as long as risk of failure does not put the risk taker out on the street. A risk taken but failed is a learning experience. Thomas Edison failed hundreds of times in his quest for the incandescent light bulb. After his success, someone asked him about his many failures, to which he replied that they were not failures at all, that in fact, he learned many hundreds of ways NOT to make a light bulb. As you read this post, probably under a light of some kind, think about where we would be had Edision laid himself off after failing at inventing the light bulb in 5 or 10 attempts. Is there an Edison at your workplace, keeping his or her head down, playing the survival game?