Does your work stink?

Alex Pollock

Last week as I visited the business section of a bookstore in the Detroit Airport, two books caught my attention: “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It” and “Love the Work, Hate the Job.”

As I read them it appears that the authors are calling for dramatic change in our workplace culture which suggests to me that the Corporate Executive mantra that “Employees are our greatest asset” is wearing thin. In fact, studies from the Gallup organization reveal that only 30% of US workers are “engaged at work (with similar gloomy statistics in other parts of the world).

I hope that these stats are not representative of the EHS profession but I fear they may be.

The book “12: The Elements of Great Managing” offers a wonderful reminder of the traits of a great workplace:

  1. I know what’s expected of me at work
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. At work my opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities to learn and grow at work.

The creation of great workplaces is essential to attract and retain the EHS talent we need. If we get this workplace culture right numerous benefits emerge: employee satisfaction, employee retention, superior safety performance to name a few.

Are these traits dominant in your workplace? If not, why not? What’s holding us back? What’s our message for “leaders”? What should “followers” be doing? We have a professional legacy for excellence to safeguard and creating a workplace culture that fully utilizes the talents of all people seems to me to be a key success indicator. Do you agree with me that we should be concerned about this greater lack of employee engagement and satisfaction and how it might be impacting the EHS profession?

About Alex Pollock

Alex Pollock has been studying leadership effectiveness for more than 30 years. A former leader in environment, health and safety, and public affairs at The Dow Chemical Co., he learned that we all have leadership roles to play. He enjoys discussing new ideas and sharing practical ways we can all become better leaders.

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  1. Mark Hause

    November 13, 2008

    I agree with all of the principles with the exception of the one about having a best friend at work. I think that having friends is critical for morale, but I think that it being a best friend is too high of a bar; particularly with the high mobility of people in the work place.

  2. Alex Pollock

    November 19, 2008

    Thanks for taking time to comment Mark. In the book “Vital Friends”, Tom Rath,(2006) the importance of “best friends” in the workplace is discussed. I listened recently to a Gallup consultant indicated that initially the importance of this finding surprised them. There was even pressure to remove this question from the Q12. As more data is added to their data base Gallup remains convinced of the important link between employee engagement and having a “best friend” at work.

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