It is a paycheck — and it is killing us

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This past weekend, Kate and I were at a party of old friends and coworkers. It is a comfortable group. As in any situation where former coworkers get together, there is a lot of sharing about who is working where and what job openings are available to others.

The story on this get together was that there weren’t a lot of job openings and where people were working they were experiencing super high stress. Not only are people fearful for their jobs, but the internal culture of companies is just turning nasty.

And after the legitimate whining about what was happening about work — people so stressed out they totally disengage from work just to protect their psyche — I asked how they coped. The answer was a universal “I just treat it like a paycheck.”

“But the job is killing you,” I said.

“What choice do I have except to put up with it?”

To be fair, I was expecting tough stories out of the party — working people know we are in an ugly recession — but I was surprised by the intensity and breadth of how much people dislike their work. And their coworkers.

In a tough environment, people lose their perspective as well as their manners making it worse for everyone at work. It’s not about results, it is about survival. After Katrina, it is clear all it takes is about five days of no hope for help and great people change from wonderful to survival mode. We’re in the middle of a hurricane in the workplace. It looks like people aren’t thriving in cubicles; they are barely surviving. Plus, it is getting worse.

So to company management out there — we need to change the dynamics for your workers in these tough times. More care and feeding of employees and less stress is needed. Eliminating all that is superficial and focus only on the necessary. Less speed where possible and more explanation of conditions. More monitoring of our teams and helping them succeed and less feeding them to the wolves.

And to our teams — we need a lot less pushing and shoving of our personalities and points and more collaborative help. More listening and less screaming. More creativity and less criticism. More answers and tolerance of more questions.

When people are working “because it is a paycheck” and not because they remotely like the job, the company — and the country — is in far more trouble then financials will tell you. Disengaged people won’t (and can’t) help you solve the problems of the day. They can’t rise to the occasion to save a customer or resolve a process. Disengaged people can’t lead their work and support their teams.

Let’s resolve to treat each other with respect and as adults. Let’s change the ugly dynamics on our teams through the work of the teams and management’s approach to our jobs. Let’s do this despite the tough economic conditions.

Work needs to be more than a paycheck. Especially when the work is killing us.

How can you change the dynamics on your team?

  • eric moore says:

    The back of my mind and my gut tells me this is no different then throwing a bone to a pack of hungry dogs. Fighting is just the natural result of lessening resources required for survival to a group of people a year from now won’t be posting on boards like this because they will be living under bridges.

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