3 Signs of a Miserable Job

In recent posts I’ve been talking about the importance of employee and volunteer engagement. Billions of dollars are lost annually because of disengaged employees who have zero emotional buy-in or passion for their work. Yet what’s amazing is that disengagement is found in practically every field. To combat the disengagement, business leader and author Patrick Lencioni identified The Three Signs of a Miserable Job that leaders must address:

1. Anonymity – Lencioni observes, “People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known.” In other words, if employees are not understood, appreciated, visible, and recognized for their unique qualities, they will not engage with their work. They must receive recognition from somebody in authority. Leaders can eliminate the anonymity (the first sign of a miserable job) by showing a genuine interest in their employees, expressing appreciation, showing concern for their dreams and aspirations, nurturing relationships, and focusing on common interests. Self-Assessment Questions: Do I really know my employees? Their interests? What they enjoy doing in their spare time? Where they are in their lives?

2. Irrelevance – The second sign of a miserable job is irrelevance. When an employee feels that their job does not matter, they will quickly disengage. They must see how their work is relevant and meaningful to someone besides themselves. Lencioni states, “When people lose sight of their impact on other people’s lives, or worse yet, when they come to the realization that they have no impact at all, they begin to die emotionally. The fact is, God didn’t create people to serve themselves. Everyone ultimately wants and needs to help others, and when they cannot, misery ensues.” Employees must know WHO they are helping and HOW they are helping. Without this understanding, their job will feel irrelevant. Self-Assessment Questions: Do your employees or volunteers know who their work impacts and how?

3. Immeasurement – An admittedly made-up word, Lencioni points to “immeasurement” as the third sign of a miserable job. Lencioni observes, “Employees need to be able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves….Without a tangible means for assessing success or failure, motivation eventually deteriorates as people see themselves as unable to control their own fate.” Leaders must work with their employees or volunteers to establish measurements that the worker can “directly influence.” Furthermore, the measurements must be connected to relevance–that which is meaningful about the job. Self-Assessment Questions: Do your employees or volunteers know how to assess their own progress or success?

Anonymity, Irrelevance, and Immeasurement are the three signs of a miserable job which, if ignored, will lead to certain disengagement. How are you addressing these three signs with your team. If you’re not “leading” the team, what can you do to ensure these signs don’t define your personal work life or the work life of your fellow employees?