In the Tuesday edition of USA Today there was a small "snapshot" that presented the results of a survey to 1200 workers asking them about their top workplace frustrations. The top five:
- Poor communication by senior management - 17%
- Office Politics - 16%
- Lack of teamwork - 15%
- The use of politically correct language - 9%
- Nosy co-workers - 6%
I was interested in the first three especially.
Many people feel like they have little stake in the place they work, because they don't understand the goals and strategies of the business, and when they do seek out this information they get the run around. I don't know if most management teams are intentionally indirect about how their strategies and goals, but it's getting a bit embarrassing in some of the consulting work I do to try to map what teams are asked to do back to corporate goals and strategies. Quite often, people claim ignorance or don't want to acknowledge a corporate strategy. True, many senior managers are very vague in their communications. Perhaps they don't want to be held accountable, or they've fallen in love with buzzwords. Or perhaps they just don't have a strategy, and are uncertain about how the business is run.
The next two - politics and lack of teamwork - overlap. Where office politics exist there is almost always a lack of teamwork, since someone has decided to get ahead by limiting cooperation or information sharing. In fact, I think these are really the same issue. There's only one reason that teams or individuals within a company should fail to work together effectively, and that's when there are incentives to encourage them to do otherwise. If a business is established to make the best use of its resources, and then builds walls and political machinations that make it less efficient, those failures have to be obvious to the people in control. So office politics and a lack of teamwork are not just accepted but often implicitly condoned by a management team that can't create clear incentives to work together and seems more intent on creating competitive teams that excel by eliminating team work.
These frustrations point to the fact that many managers simply don't know how to lead and manage people, and are afraid of providing specific, direct goals that are measurable and holding people accountable to those goals. Rather, they create very indirect and unspecific goals, don't communicate them well and tolerate office politics and silos, then wonder why everyone is frustrated and work is never done as it should be.