Friday, February 19, 2010

Satisfied workers don't mutiny

Job satisfaction is key to maintaining sanity. Workers need jobs that they find interesting and fulfilling. While some managers promote stupid things like "wacky tie Friday" and think that they've done all they can to ensure an insanity-free workplace, it may come as a shock that their employees are on the brink of stabtastic mutiny. "Wacky tie Friday" is like deep-frying tofu: yeah, it's deep fried, but nobody cares. I may be able to wear wacky and tacky ties, but I bet I'd still have to go see HR if I wore a tie with a flaming eyeball on it. That's why those stupid "fun" days at work are just little gimmicks to prevent a mutiny. More popular fun days at work, like "cage match Wednesday," always bring out the best in our hard-working friends in the office. Who wouldn't want to work in an office that turned into Thunderdome every Wednesday?

Pictured- "cage match Wednesday"
(image actually courtesy of

Seriously, though...

We've all seen little office satire comics or jokes about how the workplace is a dull and lifeless wasteland of cubicles and (if you're lucky) a little break room where you can make awkward advances at the receptionist. And every so often, corporate higher ups will allow a manager to do something completely insane like let people wear piano key ties to work ( wait... yawn). Like all stereotypes, this one came from somewhere, and carries a light (but noticeable) load of truth. Office culture normally sucks. There's no other way to put it. When you work at a place with a "corporate lemming" organizational structure, and you work in a small cubicle all day, you begin to lose interest in your awesome data entry job that you bragged to everyone about. Seeing as how you spend eight hours a day in that hellhole, which comprises most of your waking life, you begin to realize that you're fighting a war of attrition with your job, and you're quickly turning into a casualty.

The workplace is a dangerous battlefield
(image courtesy of

The reading for this week's post comes from an ancient text unearthed during an archaeological dig in Iceland. The ancient Viking text, called Organizational Behavior, was written by two Viking warlords, whose names roughly translate into English as Kreitner and Kinicki, and was oddly printed in 2008. Because I was able to secure a government grant to study this text, I will now bring you its wisdom.

Sanity on the job is a big deal. As stated earlier, depressed employees can turn to insane ones, and insane ones can turn into stabby ones. But where does the conflict lie? Well, Kinicki and Kreitner talk at great length about the things that can cause conflict in the workplace. Unfortunately, they don't talk a lot about stabby employees (which would have been good for a few laughs), but they certainly talk about important aspects of the workplace and interpersonal relationships that can lead to a stabarrific workplace (which is something to avoid).

This is obviously a stabarrific workplace
(Image courtesy of

Conflict comes in a variety of flavors. You have your classic intrapersonal conflict (internal conflict born from the unholy matrimony of big pipe dreams and a really awful reality), interpersonal conflict (sexual harassment, racism, that dude in the next cubicle who listens to Oprah podcasts without headphones on), and value conflicts with your organization. These are fundamental to job satisfaction.

To some extent, a large portion of this is in the employee's hands. For instance, a wimpy vegetarian that goes an hour out of her way just to eat a "garden burger," probably shouldn't work in franchising operations for Burger King. Having values that are consistent with your company's values is the first step to enjoying your job and not losing your mind. A company that has values that are widely consistent with your own can also lead to having better co-workers, because they will likely share values with you.

Unfortunately, this world we live in is awful, and my rosy picture of the workplace isn't entirely accurate. In reality, there are companies out there who perform necessary services, but there's almost no way in hell to attract energy and creativity for these positions. I am speaking, of course, about mid-level paper sales offices.

(image courtesy of

All Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute references aside, think about what the workplace on THE OFFICE would be like without all the time-wasting antics that occur there. It would literally be worse than hell. To be honest, the hijinks of Michael Scott would be one of the only things keeping many of the employees alive. Sitting in that office all day and trying to be productive would literally drive me to commit a terrorist act.

I want to tie this into what I was talking bout before, about what our Viking friends Kreitner and Kinicki say about "Organizational Commitment." In the ancient text (the textbook, if you haven't figured it out yet), they describe this as

"...the extent to which an individual identifies with an organizationa and is committed to its goals. It is an important work attitude because committed individuals are expected to display a willingness to work harder to achieve organizational goals and a greater desire to stay employed at an organization." Pg-166

This applies to almost every business. There are companies out there whose employees are galvanized and focused workers simply because of what the company does or represents. For instance, people working for a company that fights breast cancer or other diseases are motivated to contribute to something bigger than themselves, and in essence, bigger than the company. They believe they are making a difference, and the difference they want to make is reflected in their choice to work for that particular company. People working for companies with whom they share values and goals are more likely to go out of their way to contribute and excel at their jobs. It's not a stretch to assume people working for these companies are happier people overall.

Certain behaviors where people go above and beyond the call of duty are called Organizational Citizenship Behaviors, and they are directly linked to workplace happiness and promotions (according to the book). If you love a company and your values fit nicely together, you're more likely to go out of your way to do extra for the company. This is good for everyone involved, because promotions are really measures of how well you work, and how much people like you. You help the company a little more than anyone else in your division... you get promoted.

A very simple life strategy.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Interesting take. I agree companies do not need to, or should, over-use bonding activities and 'casual friday' type things. Casual fridays, although I'm sure a nice little semi-beginning to total weekend clothes, does not mean that employees get any less of a workload than normal and still have to work on fridays, except their casaul attired probably leads their mind to wonder to outdoors and their weekend plans more frequently than normal. However, this is not say such days should not exist at all. Such days should come every once in awhile, so that when they do occur, it's actually something fun and different, instead of just becoming a normal part of an employee's work week. Same with company activities and parties. They should not occur all the time or be manditory. They are supposed to be a way for employees to bond, relax and have fun. Employees should not dread going to 'another one of those office parties' that their boss is hosting. Perhaps a better solution would be for managers to let their employees designate a few of their creative and outgoing peers to use a little of their paid time every friday to organize big monthly activities that everyone will enjoy.