One reason many clients come to me is their frustration due to a lack of mobility within their organisation. For many, the need to grow upward or even laterally for professional enrichment is acute. And, I completely understand that the desire for stability and security can sometimes overwhelm the need to be more aggressive. For many, there is a real challenge in reconciling the need for personal growth versus the risk of “rocking the boat” with all that implies.
While I am sympathetic to the concern, I am also aware that a lack of mobility is often tied in with a lack of employee engagement. In my experience most clients commit themselves to job success. There is a sincere effort to fulfill the mandates of their job description with efficiency and dedication.
However, most job descriptions and many performance reviews contain job criteria often ignored. These are the criteria that examine how an employee takes a more expansive view toward their own job and a greater engagement with the organisation.
Despite the reality of the pressures and demands on the job as a normal component of work-life, we do have the ability within ourselves to create a more positive work environment that provides greater job satisfaction. However we have to work at it. Good managers look for ways to give employees with demonstrated initiative more responsibility, more autonomy and even an opportunity for advancement. The important question is how do we, as individuals, empower ourselves such that we derive more job satisfaction? How do we find ways to contribute and retain our self-respect, enhance our self-esteem, and even position ourselves for the next step?
Before answering the questions, it is important to acknowledge one important factor. You must be in a job and work culture that fits your values and interests. It is not easy, however if you hate where you work, hate the work itself and hate the company culture, read no further.
However, if you are in a relatively positive environment, there is much that you can do.
First, be creative, especially in ways that interest you and add value to your work life. Look for ways that can make a difference in your job or your department. Criticism is all too common in the workplace and constructive criticism is often ignored. But, if you have an idea, give it some real thought, flesh it out. Present it professionally and constructively, making sure you are available to do the background work yourself.
Don’t create work for others. Any good manager is desperate for good ideas that help make the department better. Managers love employees that present both problems and proposed solutions at the same time. Just like as a professional photographer, don’t worry about the credit. That will come. The important point is finding creative contributions that will give you satisfaction.
Be a catalyst. Sell an idea to your co-workers and get them to “buy in” as willing participants. The ability and desire to work effectively with others is increasingly important to employers. Everyone talks about the need for “team players.” That’s not rhetoric. With rampant cost cutting, the demands on the group to function and produce as a group has been increasing for years.
Companies want to build morale and foster a team spirit. Developing a cohesive team by a group of co-workers with fresh ideas and shared credit can significantly enhance the work experience. Again, don’t worry about credit.
Communicate often and constructively. Employees constantly wonder why supervisors don’t understand or sense an employee’s anger or frustration. Unattended problems often grow and get noticed only when they are untenable. Early communication, offered in a positive and constructive fashion can head off many budding issues.
Approached properly an employee can quickly determine at minimal risk, whether a manager can listen and respond positively. Most do. Just give them the chance. Managers face the same pressures and want to succeed, too. Help them do that and you will be a winner.
Look at how you function and your organisation fits with other groups. There may be excellent productivity within a work unit. However, the interface of 2 or more work units can generate significant inefficiency resulting in frustration and delay. Examining how the pieces fit and how that fit can be made better provides fertile ground for creativity. This is a problem in most organisations in which solutions across groups can add significant value.
A desire for growth requires taking charge of our own situation and figuring out how to move forward. The essential point is adoption of a personal commitment to renewal, shifting our perspective from what was to what lies ahead. That attitude is absolutely critical when confronted with job or career plateaus.
In summary, maintain a positive attitude and try to understand the goals and strategies of the organisation beyond your work unit. Look for opportunities for cross-unit or cross organisation cooperation. Pro-actively demonstrate how you can solve problems and always keep in mind you are contributing to the bottom line, even if indirectly. Finally, look for those incremental improvements that add value to and beyond your own job.