Does work still have to be this hard?
- 5 Min Read
‘Working too hard’ is too often a badge of honour, but it can have devastating effects on workers. How can HR leaders reverse this cultural trend?
The singular obsession with results, and organisations being slaves to their scoreboards, has resulted in workplace cultures where the zeitgeist is full of excessive busyness, pressure and the need to be ‘going the extra mile’ at all times.
It’s not uncommon for lots of people to wear the ‘working really hard’ badge of honour, characterised by long hours, skipped meals and getting home exhausted from another day of heroic efforts. This way of living at work appears all the more worrying when we consider that in reality, for most people, their working life is a forty to fifty year marathon. For the organisations they’re part of, the mission is seldom complete, there is no finish line and any ‘wins’ that are achieved are quickly forgotten in the pursuit of the next set of targets.
With the current increase in the awareness and importance of mental health and everyone becoming much more tuned into the value of mindfulness, sleep and psychological safety, there’s an unsustainable dissonance in the air. Something is going to have to change, and with all of these things, the solution is simple, but not necessarily easy.
Change the beliefs about duty of care and fitness for purpose
If most organisations ran Olympic teams, we’d see a situation where everyone would turn up to the Olympics and all of the athletes would have been left to their own devices, ready to produce the performance of their lives. Having selected the team, the leadership would be sitting back anticipating great things and relying on the initiative of the athletes to have made the most of having been selected in the first place. Such an approach would leave many of the athletes under-prepared, feeling unsupported and very vulnerable to the huge pressures and expectations of Olympic level performance.
It’s time that organisations became much more focused on their responsibility, their duty of care, for the people who they’ve selected to be part of the ongoing collective pursuit of success. Having taken the step of getting people on board, organisations should now became healthily paranoid about the quality of support being provided to help every person in their organisation feel that they’re fit for purpose. Just as a coach develops an athlete to be totally prepared to step into the Olympic cauldron, as fully prepared as possible, business leaders will measure their success on the basis of how effectively they ensure mental, physical, technical and tactical requirements have been systematically put in place.
Long gone are the days when recruitment is just about getting the right people on the bus.
Are you and your organisation ready to make sure everybody on board is fit to enjoy the journey and it’s inevitable detours along the way?
Collaborate to build the right performance beliefs in every person
Working collaboratively is the key here – when organisations have a culture of everyone working together to maximise collective confidence in every working relationship, you’ll have a key foundation stone in place. With confidence, from a deep knowledge and acceptance of personal value, comes a hugely powerful version of motivation.
No longer is motivation all used up in the incessant self-coaxing and persuasion to get through the office door every day. With appropriate belief being fuelled, motivation becomes a heady mix of support, expectation and challenge, ushering people into the office and into action. Inspired by the desire to find out how effectively they can make a contribution to the meaningful work they’re part of today.
For many of us, it’s easy to lose sight of why we were good enough to be offered a role in the first place. Given our tendency to worry that we’re not good enough, or to think someone else is better, it makes sense for us all to ensure that strength of confidence is a shared responsibility within an organisation.
What can you do today to build the confidence of yourself and those around you, so that you’re all fit for purpose and ready to make a positive difference?
Shift towards a true ‘performance’ culture that has a balanced obsession for both performance and results
This last one is probably the route to most issues within organisations. The blind pursuit of results, without a balanced obsession with performance has caused an epidemic of unhelpful psychological qualities within organisations (unhelpful fear of failure, slow decision making, no risk-taking, self-interest over collective benefit, and many more).
If you want to give people the safety, confidence, freedom and permission to perform consistently to their peak (with not having to over-try), then it’s time to get on a mission of ensuring that for every result you covet, there are collaboratively created and agreed descriptions of ‘how’ we want to go about pursuing the result. You change the game when people know that you’re equally obsessed with the ‘how’ as you are with the ‘what’ of winning.
When this rewiring of what winning means is defined, the nature of the relationship between employer and employee will begin to change dramatically. We’ll be creating workplaces of the future that are characterised by Performance Compassion instead of Result Obsession. And these will be places where people will be inspired to thrive, rather than resigned to survive.