The Whiners and the Hummers
"Why delight in work? Fundamentally, I suppose,
because there is a sense of relief and pleasure in getting something done -- a
satisfaction not unlike that which a hen enjoys on laying an egg."
(What follows grew out of the research for my book,
"The Gifted Boss," my search for the best bosses in America, and was
crystallized by conversations with Bill Leslie and Dan Hagerman.)
To you suits up there on the top floor, I suppose I'm
just another one of your foot soldiers, just one of the grunts who makes it,
delivers it, fixes it. But I am a great grunt and proud of it, and there are a
few things I can teach you. I suppose that you'll resent me telling you how to
do your job -- I know I detest it when you try telling me how to do mine -- but
you need to understand this truth:
YOUR JOB IS TO BE WORTHY OF ME AND MY WORK
I produce more than I have to, not because you
"motivate" me, but because of the satisfaction it gives me. It's not a
once-a-year satisfaction at performance review time, but the everyday
satisfaction of having put in a good day's work. That may seem narrow-minded to
you, to see life in days instead of quarters or fiscal years, but maybe the
truth is that it's just the opposite. Maybe my life is richer because I'm free
from your obsession with ambition. Oh, sure, you're getting rich and I'm not --
but is your life richer? I don't know. Not for me to say.
What I want to do is to look back on my workday and
know I've earned my pay and then some. I don't need a spreadsheet to tell me
how I'm doing -- my spreadsheet is right there in the eyes of my co-workers and
customers. I work for them, not you. That's important to understand, Boss: I
don't give you my heart and mind because you manipulated me through your silly
policies or pep talks, but because giving myself to my work is what I do. I'm
no pigeon in a box; I'm a worker. I bring with me my worker ethic, and my
quality ethic and my take-care-of-the-customer ethic.
YOU CAN'T TEACH IT; YOU CAN ONLY RECOGNIZE IT, VALUE
IT, CELEBRATE IT.
Perhaps you think that employees like me don't really
matter, that with your controls and your management, you can require good work.
You may even believe that with enough rules you can ensure quality. If so: oh
my, that's sad.
Here's how NOT to do it:
When performance goes down, you institute more
rules. You make the jobs smaller and the controls tighter. You get smaller
people. Little feet fill little shoes. And those shoes are little tiny loafers.
You get employees who don't work at working, but at getting out of work. Their
brainpower goes into thwarting your rules. What can you do? Hire stupider
workers? No wonder you learn to hate your employees. No wonder you dream of
THE KINGS AND QUEENS OF PRODUCTIVITY
But, on the other side, you have the employees who
make the robots look like... well, mere robots. You have the employees who
implement solutions before you even knew there was a problem. You have the
employees who delight the customers, who make work a pleasure. In other words,
you have me. And that gets us back to the beginning, the part about your job is
to be worthy of me.
If you're interested, here's what it takes:
When I walk through a workplace I can tell in a
minute what sort of organization it is. I hear it. In some of the lousy places
it's a whine; in the good ones it's a hum. And we hummers won't work with the
whiners. It's up to you to create a place that we'll agree to be part of.
We great grunts know which executives care about
the company, and which are nothing more than sucking wounds of ego. Great
employees always work with management, not for management. If you want to hire
me, you have to prove to me that you want to be the best, together. I only work
on first-rate products and services. I only work for people who look up to me,
even from the top floor. Thomas Carlyle wrote, "He that can work is the born
king of something." That's us, the kings and queens of productivity. That's how
to treat us.
Well, I hope you get it, because that's all I have
time for -- I've got work to do.
© 1999 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
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