Subtle Warning Signs Your Work Environment Sucks
There’s an analogy of a frog and water. If you put the frog in cold water and slowly turn-up the heat, the frog won’t notice and slowly cook. However, if you put the frog in boiling water, the frog will jump out. In this analogy the frog is us, and the water our work environment. The more accustomed we become to our surroundings the less we pay attention to them.
This makes it rather difficult for us to recognize the warning signs when a good thing starts to go bad. So in the context of a work environment, what are some warning signs that it sucks?
1. Managers fail to acknowledge the hard work of employees
I heard this statement today when an employee gave a manager a draft presentation: “There are no speaker notes.” The speaker notes were there. Never mind that the presentation took several days and carefully crafted. Just say “Thank You.”
2. Complaints about trivial things
When unresolved issues pile up, trivial things become the object of dissatisfaction.
3. Previously made decisions are constantly reevaluated. Deadlines constantly slip
This creates doubt that decisions can be made. It also sends an unintended message that no matter how hard you worked to get a decision; it won’t last – so why try.
4. Employees scrutinize the contents of emails out of fear of reprisal for making a mistake
I’ve seen employees agonize over sending banal emails out of fear of making a mistake.
5. Executives have a pattern of diving into the details instead of setting the direction
Executives spend time setting context and vision for the organization. How to achieve the vision is middle management and employees work.
6. Meetings rarely start on time. Meeting’s purpose unclear
Look at your calendar. How many meetings do you feel were productive and useful? What’s the irritation of poor meetings costing you?
7. Managers are rarely available because of back-to-back meetings
If managers aren’t available, it slows down progress on deliverables, decisions. Employee issues/concerns not addressed timely.
8. Employee breaking points become more obvious
Look at the number of employees out on stress leave. What’s going on with your attrition rate? How’s productivity? Absenteesim? Are your top performers beginning to show signs of wear and tear, or worse, leaving.
If several of the above items are present in your work environment, it’s time for management teams to get together and determine how to address the warning signs. I’m an advocate of initiating the conversation with employees by simply having a conversation: “I’ve noticed these things and am concerned how they are impacting you and our work environment. I’d like to hear your thoughts.”
This is an updated post that originally posted in 2010 on Shawn’s former blog.
Graphic by Shawn Murphy