When I was working in the learning and development department of corporate organisations, there were many times I felt anxious, stressed and pressured.
As someone who has experienced four redundancies, countless restructures, sat through many job interviews and even had a stint on the unemployment queue receiving a government handout (“the dole”), the idea of losing a job can be daunting.
The times I felt anxious was when the organisation was going through a major change such as layoffs, outsourcing and downsizing.
When you’re in Human Resources it feels like this every day. It’s difficult not to feel that your whole working life is spent either waiting for the next organisational restructure, or being in the midst of one.
The feeling of the constant unknown, helplessness and being undervalued in your work wreaks havoc on your emotions and your focus to the job at hand.
Countless hours are wasted on office gossip, ad hoc “meetings” at the local cafe where you skulk so that you could vent to your colleagues about the shortsightedness of management and taking “work from home” days in an effort to escape the oppressive negative workplace environment.
Your day is punctuated with times you can do sneak edits to your CV, update your LinkedIn profile or scan the online job boards for a new role that would help you escape.
But deep down you know that it’s the same everywhere.
So do you stick it out, or do you go?
The Ground Hog Organisation
For the last five years of my corporate life, it seemed that I was in Ground Hog Day and it went something like this…
Restructure. Project put on ice. Apply for your own job. New boss. New project. New boss. Changed project. Apply for your own job. Restructure. Project put on ice. Repeat.
What a way to work! Nothing ever got done!
Many of my friends and ex-colleagues work for public and private sector organisations tell me that this is now a normal feeling for them.
While in the early years, they were daunted with the amount of change they experienced in the workplace, now it is so commonplace that they don’t let it bother them anymore.
“Water off a duck’s back,” they shrug their shoulders.
They’ve come to terms with the fact that what they cannot control or have a say in, it’s not worth bothering about because they “just don’t care”.
To them, doing a job now is all about about doing the minimum amount of work to get by the drudgery of 9 to 5 day.
“After all, I’ll only change if I see my boss changing. If he doesn’t – why should I? Where’s the motivation?”
Do what you have to do.
Nothing more nothing less.
If it’s not in your job description you don’t do it.
Don’t rock the boat.
Get the paycheque.
Bad bosses, horrible clients, exploding email inbox, ranting stakeholders, scope creep – others take it to heart and deal with life in perpetual beta with stress and anxiety (like I did), while others had an air of calmness about them because they’ve taken workplace disengagement to another level and made it into a fine art of pretence.
The pretence of…
- making it out to look as if you are interested in your project but you’re not really because you’re biding time.
- offering advice and making suggestions to a team member but you really don’t care either way.
- making it look like you know what you’re doing or saying but you don’t really because you fear being found out or being ridiculed.
- making out that you’ll volunteer for that project but you have no intention of doing so.
- being interested in your boss’s new idea but deep down you just wish she’d leave you alone.
- answering that email but you’re just going to make him wait for that response when you’re good and ready.
- being busy to respond to that project deliverable but you’re surfing the internet planning your next holiday.
You do just enough, just in time. Nothing more. Nothing less.
There’s entire workforces that are dealing with change by working under the radar.
At a time when more than 70% Australians are “ambivalent about or completely disengaged with their jobs”, this situation is costing our economy about $54.8 billion a year.
On the one hand, you can place all the cultural initiatives, technology implementations and learning programs to inspire your workplace to a company vision but on the other hand, when your senior leaders and management take away the rights and freedoms of people to choose their work, to feel valued and live up to their potential in their new roles, you’re going to have a workforce that is working under the radar and sabotaging your business through pretence, ambivalence and disinterest.
To some this way of working is now simply ingrained. They’ve lost the trust in their organisation entirely and it may be too late to get it back because they just don’t care.
…and what’s most disconcerting of all, this is happening to not only your workforce but your management and leadership.