How’s work?

When I ask this question of leadership and management what I hear is “not bad or could be better” followed by the “damn economy, Amazon” or some other external issue holding their organizations back. While these are important and serious issues there is a more critical issue festering inside most organizations.

The issue is the attitudes and feelings carried in the minds and hearts of your colleagues and you. Attitudes and feelings so corrosive it threatens your competitive advantage. These attitudes and feelings are forming around our;

Pessimism about the future.

Pew Research indicates that over half of adults in advanced countries believe their children will have a poorer standard of living than their own. Pessimism in North America ranges from over two thirds in Canada to just over half of adults in the United States. We see organizations dealing with this issue in the form of employee dissatisfaction, declining standards, motivational issues and feelings of hopelessness.

Dislike of work.

A staggering 85% of us around the world are not engaged at work according to Gallup’s latest survey. Yes, you read that right; for every 10 of your employees and colleagues, nine of them don’t like what they do. Staggering. We see dislike of work and poor engagement levels diminishing organizations’ cultural dynamics through absenteeism, mental health issues and poor morale.

Lack of trust.

For years now trust has been a significant issue for government, business, media and NGO’s. While trust is slowly improving, according to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, the more significant issue is the emerging trust divide between the informed public (those that read the news) and the uninformed. However, the effects of years of distrust is showing itself in the form of diminished loyalty, poor accountability and mental health issues due to stress.

We have seen versions of these feelings in the majority of our clients’ organizations for many years now and what we know is that none of us are immune to these corrosive feelings. We bring these attitudes to work and into our meetings with colleagues and customers. We do our best to deal with it, but it is threatening your hard-won competitive advantage in people, products and services.
But here is some good news.

Trust removes rust

…. and corrosion caused by these attitudes and feelings. What I have learned is that organizations remain resilient and competitive if people have trust; in their leadership and in each other.

This is supported by another piece of good news from Edelman’s Trust Barometer. Our past trust issues in CEO’s and heads of government combined with the shift of trust to peers and experts has turned us now to another important relationship, our employers. Edelman is seeing “My Employer” emerging as the most trusted entity, because the relationships that are closest to us feel more controllable.

What an opportunity! And what a responsibility for employer and employee because relationships rooted in trust take on-going work. To help, here is the advice given by our clients, both employers and employees on building trust and competitive advantage.

1. Respect my talent, respect me.

Leaders and employees told us that respecting their talent through training and development scrubs away feelings of pessimism because respecting talent is like trusting the future. According to Udemy, 42% of employees say learning and development is the most important benefit when deciding where to work and 51% of employees would quit their job if training was not offered. Talent development builds trust and improves motivation across your organization.

2. Engage with me. But, make it purposeful.

We have found many organizations remove all friction in the interests of efficiency and a “feel good” culture. But leaders and employees tell us they want the healthy friction that comes from real debate and meaningful exchanges of views. The route to meaningful work goes through purposeful collaboration. According to Robert Half (http://rh- us.mediaroom.com/2018-11-27-More-Than-One-Third-Of-Workers-Would-Pass-On- Perfect-Job-If-Corporate-Culture-Was-Not-A-Fit-Survey-Finds) most organizations need help transitioning from traditional to supportive and team oriented cultures. Healthy friction and meaningful work built on trust removes the corrosive dislike of work and greatly improves morale and mental health.

3. Promise me hope and opportunity. Not guarantees.

Leaders and employees tell us that a guarantee of work today would be suspected not expected. What they do expect is hope and opportunity. The hope that comes from active participation in the future success of their organization and the opportunity to participate in the pursuit of future success. The more involved we are, the more in control we feel of our destiny. These feelings of hope and opportunity displace pessimism and distrust and will boost accountability and loyalty.
Resilient competitive advantage would not have been possible for our clients without the presence of trust. If you want your response to the question “how is work” to be “it’s great despite the damn economy or Amazon or other important external issues then consider removing those corrosive internal attitudes and feelings with trust. Trust removes rust and in this week of Mental Health Awareness we should give this some serious thought.

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