Misery at the Company: Three Signs

By Deb Perelman  |  Posted 2007-08-28 Print this article Print

What's the difference between a bad job and a miserable one? According to one author, it is more than semantics. In his new book, "Three Signs of a Miserable Job," author Patrick Lencioni says that no matter how much the two terms are used interchangeably, they are not the same thing.

"A bad job lies in the eye of the beholder," explains Lencioni. "One person's dream job may be another person's nightmare.

"But a miserable job is universal. It is one that makes a person cynical and frustrated and demoralized when they go home at night. It drains them of their energy, their enthusiasm and their self-esteem."

In the book, Lencioni argues that miserable jobs are industry- and experience level-irrelevant, that CIOs can be as miserable as help desk professionals.

It rarely takes long for the topic of a bad job to come up in conversation. A recent Gallup poll found that 77 percent of people hate their jobs, and it contended that this ailing work force costs employers more than $350 billion annually in lost productivity.

The book's three signs of a miserable job are anonymity, irrelevance and immeasurement, and the definitions are likely to resound with a good part of the working population. Anonymity is the feeling employees get when they realize that their manager has little interest in them as a human being and they know little about their lives, aspirations and interests. Irrelevance takes root when employees cannot see the way their job makes a difference in the lives of others. Immeasurement is the author's term for when employees cannot assess for themselves their contribution or success and their managers are little help.

What all three facets of workplace misery boil down to is bad management, Lencioni says.

"As simple as these three signs are, the fact remains that few managers take a genuine interest in their people, remind them of the impact that their work has on others, and help them establish creative ways to measure and assess their performance," he writes.

But largely the culprit is managers who are convinced that they are too busy to look after their supervisees.

"The real problem is that most managers see themselves primarily as individual contributors who happen to have direct reports. ... They simply forget what it was like when they were lower on the food chain," said Lencioni.

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