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I know a person with the following issue in their workplace, and I wish to help them, however I am unsure as to what suggestions to give them. So here goes (Lets call this person Jane).

Jane works as a slightly senior employee of a large company and just spent the last year compiling a massive report. The report essentially details the recommendations for the company, to ensure that the company's equipment maintains its compatibility with everyone else's equipment. I should note that the person who wrote this report was writing it as a professional in the field.

After preparing this report and submitting it to an more senior person, at its completion a couple of months ago, she also presented it to a senior group of employees (Of which a greater majority agreed with the proposed changes). She was then told that the company already knew the answers to the problems that the report covered. However, she was also told that these answers had been decided upon by people whom had not read her report yet.

I should note here, that Jane sees that there are a lot of problems with the company that she works at, and she doesn't feel as if any of her suggestions are considered or taken seriously (Despite this report being essentially the nature of her specific job).

Jane has expressed to me that she finds it hard to go to work each day, and feels that she is wasting her life (As nothing she does seems to be acted upon). She also finds that even when she is at home, she is in turmoil, due to her feeling like her time has been wasted and disregarded. She feels as if the company's goal is to save money, rather then fulfill its designated role (This is a company with significant ties to public infrastructure in the USA).

My question is, when the goal of a company is to save or make money at all costs, and your assigned tasks and goals as an employee run counter to the most important goal of making/saving money, how can one find satisfaction or appreciation in their job?

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closed as not constructive by ReallyTiredOfThisGame, DJClayworth, Rarity, Simon O'Doherty, Jim Feb 14 '13 at 16:12

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3 Answers 3

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There are two interesting components to this question, one is fairly general and the other is more specific.

The general scenario

This is the Stockholm-syndrome of corporate employment - employees forming an irrational relationship with the company they work for and taking on a personal responsibility far beyond what they are rewarded for. Loyalty to your employer over other companies is healthy and positive, loyalty to your employer over yourself is not.

"Jane", we have to assume, has no deeper stake in this company than being employed by it. Of course she should strive to make the company successful, but the worst that can happen if the company fails is that she is out of a job. That is not worth sacrificing your own happiness over. And trying to change a company that does not want to change from her position is unfeasible.

I've seen this happen to others and experienced it in myself as well. Especially in times of great stress or pressure, people seem to have a tendency to reach out and latch on to whatever perceived source of stability they can find. In these cases, their employer. And when they do, the employer all of a sudden becomes more important to them than themselves and they can find justification for all kinds of self-abuse.

This specific scenario

In my experience, oftentimes when someone is asking for feedback or improvements, what they really want is validation and assurance. The same goes for companies.

I've done numerous projects where I've been brought in to analyze and suggest improvements to some process or system. What I've learned (through painful experience) is that the most important thing to figure out is if the organization is really interested in improving. And not just the person hiring you, but all stakeholders. And many times I've found that in reality, none of the stakeholders really think there is a problem. It's blue skies all around and "we don't even know why you are here since everything is already perfect".

These people are not going to welcome your input. On the contrary, they will do their best to ignore you, marginalize you and your results and explain away any and all of your findings. Until something goes wrong. Then they will all scramble to find a way to blame it on you.

So before doing anything else, find out if your help is really wanted. If not, you need to politely back out and leave. Until the organization is truly ready and willing to accept help, there is very little you can do. And unless you have a personal stake in the company (as in actual equity ownership or a significant result- or performance-based bonus), the reward is very unlikely to match the enormous effort required to change an organization that is actively resiting the change, that don't see any need to change and that does not want to recognize any problems in what they're doing.

My advice to Jane is to try and accept that the company's priorities in this instance run contrary to what she thinks is best for the future. She may very well be right and they be wrong, but in that case, their failure will hopefully not mean the end of her world. In any case, she's done what she can and it's now out of her hands. Try to focus more on having a life outside of work and to better balance her life so her happiness is not so dependent on her work-situation. And then try to move on to other tasks or projects where her skills and input is more appreciated.

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Gallup's Q12 may be useful here to consider what kinds of engagement are possible:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

The first few could be tricky to find though some of the others may be easier to try to bring into how things are done within that company.

Another line of thought here is to consider if Jane is intrinsically motivated, then there could be something to autonomy, mastery and purpose being useful in how she views her work. While it may not be fully used, is this part of a check and balance that she is merely filling the role that is required where she gets to do the great things she likes doing in preparing the report? Just another set of ideas to ponder.

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Jane needs to think about her goals for her life. Then she will know what to do.

For example, her goal may be to maximize her income over the coming years and retire early or pursue other personal goals that require high income. In that case she may decide to put up with her present annoyance for future opportunities in the company. Or she may decide that her opportunities are limited and she needs to look for a leadership position in a more dynamic company.

Or her goal may be to do interesting work that brings happiness to others. Then perhaps she will decide to make a change as soon as possible.

Or perhaps her career is incidental, and she wants to do pleasant and interesting work, while spending as much time as possible with family and friends or pursuing an outside interest.

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