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Work, Life, and Satisfaction: Too Many People Hate Their Jobs

A Gallup poll published long before the lockdowns revealed that only 30% of Americans are passionate and enthusiastic about their work

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The summer before entering graduate school, I landed a job working for a large moving company where imposed deadlines ruled. Each day the drivers and helpers (I was a helper) left the company parking lot at 6:30 a.m.

Everyone’s daily goal boiled down to the same thing, however varied the assignments – finishing the move by the day’s end. If we were moving office equipment or entire offices, the deadlines were often based upon the closing times of loading docks, secured parking lots, and office buildings. If we were handling household moves, we sought to finish before dark.

My Job Drives Me Crazy
The full-time employees, or “lifers” as they were called, came from all kinds of backgrounds. The work was demanding, exhausting, and unrelenting. The lifers basically hated their jobs, but for many, that’s all they qualified for – many were high school dropouts. Later, I’d learn, people in all types of industries hate their jobs.

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Visibly, most of the lifers were aging faster than normal. Each knew the importance of meeting their daily deadlines with an incremental approach, and in inducing the customer to ask them to stop:

An Incremental Approach – In the moving business, one simply could not make a hurried move. For one thing, you’d start dropping items, bumping into other people, and placing items in the wrong rooms.

If you tried to quickly unload a truck, you’d become so tired halfway through that you physically could not finish. So, we unloaded our trucks methodically. I caught on from the first day, largely because I had no choice.

Those first couple of days, I was so sore by the evening that I couldn’t proceed any faster, even if I wanted. By the second week, I started to build up some muscles and could maintain the status quo.

Please Stop

Item by item, the lifer and his helper would lift items off the truck or roll them onto dollies. Office moves were easier than household moves because buildings had loading docks, freight elevators, and long tiled hallways. Houses, by contrast, had front steps, narrow doors, heavily carpeted living rooms, winding stairs, and other irritating impediments.

On household moves, once the truck was cleared of a family’s possessions and all items were in the house, the next task was to unpack all of the boxes. Many contained items which were singly wrapped with newspaper or plastic bubbled sheets.

It was physically easier to unpack boxes, rather than lift, carry, and place them, but by this point in the day, neither the lifers or helpers wanted to do anymore work.

A Wink and a Nod
One sure-fire technique helped shorten our day. With a simple nod to one another, lifers and helpers working on household moves began to unpack the individual items in boxes at a furious pace.

At first, the family was pleased to see such efforts. After a couple of minutes, as one box was opened after another, and hundreds of items started pouring forth, the family typically panicked. They realized that if they let the movers go unchecked, every box in the house would be open and every item they owned would be parked in the far reaches of the house. So, invariably, families asked us to stop.

They wanted to open the boxes, later, at their own pace and regain the ability to make incremental progress themselves. We always feigned perplexity. We’d say, “Are you sure you don’t want us to do any more unpacking?” They were sure, alright. They could hardly wait to see us go. They signed off on the moving contract and displayed signs of relief as we made our way out their front door.

Universal Job Dissatisfaction

The next day, once again, we’d arrive at work early, and depart on our assignments by 6:30 a.m. Thank goodness it was only a summer job.

Decades later, well into my career, I learned that most people, not merely lifers in the moving business, hated their jobs.

As startling as it seems to those of us who love our work, a majority of American workers either loathe their jobs or couldn’t care less about what they do. These results, coming from a Gallup poll BEFORE the lockdowns, published in The State of the American Workplace Report, reveal that some 30% of Americans are passionate and enthusiastic about their work, and are actively engaged in their tasks on a daily basis. These are the high-performing, highly productive segments of the labor force.

Far Short

According to Gallup, apparently all others fall far short of being actively engaged and nearly 20 million workers are what Gallup terms “actively disengaged.” These workers are unhappy and only too willing to convey their sense of dissatisfaction about the jobs they do. Another 50 million workers are “passively disengaged.”

In all, about 70% of our 100 million person workforce fall into the “I don’t like my job” category. Thus, a broad swath of industries, executives, managers, and supervisors today face a continuing challenge when it comes to enticing the 70% to consistently reach their productivity potential.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Business

Delegation: An Ongoing Phenomena

Failure to delegate effectively often happens because team leader don’t trust the people with whom they’re working

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For most of your career, you’ve read or heard that one of the key approaches to getting things done is to delegate effectively. This presumes that you have others to whom you can delegate. In my contact with more than 950 organizations over the last two and a half decades, I’ve found increasingly that people have fewer resources, a lower budget, and less staff people. If they want to get something done, often they have to do it themselves!

Assuming you have others to whom you can delegate, the first or second time you personally tackle a particular task yields useful information. You learn more about the nature of the task, how long it takes, and whether or not you enjoy doing it.

By the third time, a task of the same ilk as those you’ve handled before often becomes best handled by someone reporting to you. Such tasks could involve updating a database, completing an interim report, or assembling meeting notes.

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All that You Can

On the path to getting things done, your quest is to identify all those things that you can possibly delegate to others and then prepare those others so that they have a high probability of succeeding. In the course of your workday there may be only a handful of things that you alone need to do because of your experience, insight or specialized knowledge. Everything else that can be delegated should be.

Some people feel they have to take care of everything themselves and to this day haven’t been able to break the habit of “doing it all.” If this someone is in your seat right now, recognize that as a category of one, you can only get so much done.

Many managers and supervisors fail to delegate effectively because either they don’t fully trust the people with whom they’re working, or they’ve always been get-it-all-done-by-myself types.

Take Time before You Assign

Prior to delegating anything to anyone, take the time to actually prepare your staff for delegation. This would involve assessing an employee’s skills, interests, and needs. You could even ask people what new tasks and responsibilities they would like to assume. You might be surprised at the wide variety of responses you receive. There may be people on your staff right now who can help you with tasks you’ve been dying to hand off to someone but didn’t see how or when you could put them into play.

While you want to delegate to staff people who show enthusiasm, initiative and interest, or have otherwise previously demonstrated the ability to handle and balance several tasks at once, sometimes you have to delegate to someone who has not exhibited any of the above. In that case, delegate on a piece-meal basis.

Ensure that the staff person is able to effectively handle the small task or tasks he’s been assigned and does not feel swamped or overloaded. When the staff person demonstrates competence, you can increase the complexity of assignments and even the frequency with which you delegate.

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Business

Multi-tasking: More Harm than Good

In this day and age, where so much competes for our attention, it is easy to stray!

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I belong to a local health club, and while I was there one day, I saw a woman get on the Stairmaster. I watched as she whipped out an mp3 player and started listening to music. Then, to my surprise, she reached into her gym bag, pulled out a book, and placed it on that ledge to read. I almost asked her if she would like a piece of gum!

Today, when so much competes for our attention, it is easy to stray! More often than we care to pretend, in the office and at home, we invite more than we can handle, and then act as though we didn’t. As individuals, throughout society, we are trained to believe that the ability to multi-task is a great attribute. Unfortunately, that’s a big mistake. Here’s why, and how to avoid multi-tasking in the future.

First Things First

What’s the fastest and easiest way to handle six tasks competing for our attention? Identify the most important task, second most important, third most important, and so on, then tackle the first and finish it all the way, move on to the second and complete it, then move all the way down the list.

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Any other way of tackling those items, whether they are tasks for home or work, is simply not as efficient. The catch is, any other way is more psychologically satisfying.  Why?  It’s almost as if juggling projects, switching gears unnecessarily or abruptly, or leaving a job unfinished to start a new project gives you the opportunity to say to other people, “Hey, look at me! Look how involved I am! Look at how busy I am! I’m great at multi-tasking.” A multi-tasker, however, can’t compete with others who tackle their to-do list, one item at a time.

What about doubling up as a procedure for tackling a number of routine items or very simple tasks? You can eat dinner and read a book at the same time. Eating and reading at the same time is relatively harmless.

How about driving and talking on the cell phone at the same time? Driving requires your sharp attention, as does carrying on an intelligent conversation with someone else who is not present; doing both at the same time spreads your attention too thin, with often disastrous results. The same is true for projects you’re working on that require your best thinking.

Tips:
* give yourself 5 to 10 minute intervals to focus on the task at hand
* safe-guard your immediate environment to avoid interruptions
* acknowledge yourself whenever you stick to one task and finish it
* repeat all the above, often, knowing that ‘more often’ is better!

Your Undivided Attention

When you’re working on a new task, brainstorming, engaging in first-time thinking, or doing creative work, it’s vital to offer your complete and undivided attention to that one task before you. To dissipate your attention or otherwise stray means you are not going to do your best work.

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