November 1999 - Workplace Energy Dynamics
One of the principles we support is positive use of "Energy." Companies are in business to offer products or services that generate a profit. In order to accomplish those goals, the people who work for a company (or any organization) contribute their talents, skills and energy to the company in exchange for a salary, benefits, etc.
This is an exchange of energy flowing from employees to a company and back to employees in a constant cycle. Keeping this energy flowing smoothly is what generates higher productivity, higher morale, healthier working environments, happier employees and higher profits.
In order to direct employees' energy, the leadership of a company sets certain goals - increasing sales, creating new products, serving customers better, performing more efficiently, etc.
In most companies, the goal-setting process is done as part of the annual budget process or quarterly financial review process. However, many company goals are never shared with the employees who must make them happen. Empowering employees to meet the companys goals means empowering them to help the company succeed.
Success depends on a companys willingness to share the results of their efforts with all employees, combined with methods and processes that reward successful performance.
Managements responsibility is to identify:
In order for employees to act toward meeting company goals, they must:
Empowering employees gives them direction and support in achieving the companys goals. Successful companies reward desired behaviors and empower teamwork in achieving the companys goals. The primary motivators are positive rewards and incentives, rather than fear of punishment.
Individual Goals Aligned with Company Goals - Getting Everyone Rowing the Boat in the Same Direction
Imagine — if every person in a rowboat was rowing according to their own personal pace and method — each of them aiming for a different target. The boat might sputter and spin, it might weave back and forth or it might even sink. When employees work without clear understanding of the company's goals, it is the same as everyone rowing a boat according to their own ideas. The energy expended by employees without good direction is wasted or misused when this happens. Or, their energy may be expended in ways that are considered to be hostile to productivity.
When 12 people are rowing a boat in Olympic competition, it skims over the water easily. When employees row toward a common goal, the power of teamwork is like the Olympic rowboat. Uniting all employees toward the companys goals is similar to teaching them all to row in the same direction with a unified stroking pattern.
Identifying companys goals and aiming all employees toward a common point uses the powerful energy of employees with the same power that unified rowing achieves for our Olympic athletes.
The difference between successful companies and unsuccessful companies is comparable to an Olympic rowing team vs. first day novices!
Employees are a Companys Greatest Asset or Its Biggest Liability
To increase profits and reduce costs, companies must make better use of their assets and minimize their liabilities.
Employees who know the companys goals, clearly understand their part in achieving the companys goals and understand the benefit to them personally, are able to act in ways that allow their energy to enhance the company and their individual job, helping both to achieve more success.
Once employees learn the Companys Goals, the Desired Results and the Desired Behaviors, they begin to see how they fit into the overall company picture.
The individual employee can then determine how they can increase profits and reduce costs for the company. Support from supervisors and company incentive programs provide additional reinforcement to the employee, leading to further active participation in meeting company goals.
The Employee Contract - Why Employees Are Hired
Employees are hired to satisfy job description requirements specifying a list of capabilities. A list of tasks to be performed is usually part of the job description.
To achieve company goals, all employees must have a list of Company Goals and Department Goals (Desired Results) along with a set of Behaviors that are expected from them. One way to do this is through our Productivity Plus process, which helps managers and employees be consciously aware of their responsibilities for increasing profits and reducing costs for the company as a whole. This alignment helps the direct the energy of managers and employees in a unified fashion toward company goals - getting everyone rowing in the same direction.
Through conscious awareness of the personal benefits for achieving the Desired Results (supported by positive reinforcement of supervisors/managers and enhanced by performance incentives) employees learn to exhibit the Desired Behaviors.
Employee Satisfaction Survey - Where Are We Now?
Personal productivity and concern for quality are directly related to job satisfaction. Companies with high levels of employee satisfaction report significantly fewer Workers Compensation Claims, lower accident rates, less utilization of health benefit systems, low levels of employee turnover, lower levels of absenteeism and tardiness. These all represent the positive use of employee energy.
Companies with high levels of Workers' Comp claims, high accident rates, high turnover, low morale, hostile environments are all indicators of negative use of employee energy.
In response to growing labor problems, union activity, productivity concerns and changing competition in the marketplace, owners of companies have often turned to employee attitude surveys for guidance in identifying weaknesses. Surveys can be very useful if well-prepared and used regularly (at least quarterly). One short yet powerful survey is described in the book, First Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman (see article in our August 1999 newsletter).
After the survey results are compiled, management must be willing to listen to employees and make appropriate changes as needed. Senior management must be 100 percent behind the change process that can result from the surveys. If surveys are done without feedback to employees or areas needing improvement are not corrected, employees will not be honest in answering subsequent surveys. Even when the survey says that things are going well, management should be working toward improvement.
In a healthy company environment, employees and management are proud of the survey results and work actively to identify areas for continued improvement.
Involving employees constantly in decision-making helps management stay closer to the energy that will make the companies succeed. When management becomes isolated from their employees and makes decisions that affect employees daily lives, the forward momentum of a company can sputter and spin.
Footnote: We use the word "company" to mean any business endeavor. The goals of government agencies and non-profit organizations are directed toward service rather than profit. However, they too must find ways to run efficiently and must maintain an adequate revenue stream in order to function. Energy dynamics in government and non-profit groups may easily become unhealthy or hostile because management and employees may not focus on the productivity required in profit-oriented businesses.
Very positive energy forces are released when people feel creative, have the freedom to express their opinions, and have the respect of their management and their peers. Negative energy creates Hostile Workplace situations - including: Violence, Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, Verbal Abuse, Lack of Respect, Loss of Productivity as well as all dysfunctional or addictive work situations.
Your individual contribution to the collective positive energy comes through using your own creativity, communicating well, having respect for others, adapting to changing situations, working with others and enjoying what you do.
Your individual contribution to the collective negative energy comes through withholding your talents, communicating without respect, fighting and arguing with others, resisting changes, creating tension with others and hating what you do.
You as an individual play a significant role in the overall energy force. Each person can contribute positive energy or negative energy to the collective energy of a company, a family or a community group.
As a manager, executive or leader in your company, you are directly responsible for encouraging positive energy or contributing to negative energy within your company. How you choose to do this will affect the success of the company, your own career success and the productivity of those you influence.
What Constitutes "Positive" Energy?
Think about what makes you happy as a person. Is it having friends, spending time with your family, creating something that shows your talents, having quiet time, traveling to new sites, laughing, hearing music, feeling joy, seeing something beautiful, spending time in nature?
All of those things can be translated into positive aspects of successful, energetic workplaces. Some examples of positive energy dynamics:
Companies that already have healthy, positive energy dynamics must work to keep the positive energy flowing. There are many ways that a company can be badly influenced so constant vigilance is needed to protect healthy environments so they do not become contaminated. A single new executive with negative personality traits or who is verbally abusive can do immeasurable damage to a company very quickly. Outside influences brought into the company can quickly do damage if management is not paying attention to the overall health and well-being of their company.
Positive energy to a company is like food, water and love to humans. Without it, a company cannot survive for the long-term just a person cannot survive without basic nourishment.
What Constitutes "Negative" Energy?
Think about what makes you unhappy as a person. Is it not having friends, feeling the clash of infighting, feeling like you cannot express yourself, too much noise around you, feeling trapped, feeling like you are being watched, being pressured to meet unrealistic deadlines, feeling like your work is monitored all the time, being constantly criticized, not having the freedom to move about the company; feeling tired, sad or angry most of the time; feeling like nobody cares about you, seeing others harassed or treated poorly, being bored by the same old routine that never changes, being afraid of being fired or disciplined?
All of those things can be translated into negative aspects of hostile environment. Some examples of negative energy dynamics:
Allowing negative people to remain in an otherwise healthy environment is like putting a rotten apple in a barrel of good apples. In very short order, the entire barrel is destroyed. Allowing a single negative person to do that type of damage is very destructive for a healthy company. In that situation, management must remove the negative person as well as support the remaining healthy people to allow the damage to heal.
Companies that have high turnover, harassment or hostile workplace issues, abusive or fearful employees, lots of sick time used, many workers' comp claims and other types of unhealthy energy face major challenges in turning the corporate culture around. This requires extreme measures over many years if it is entrenched. We believe many such companies or organizations are beyond hope and cannot be fixed. Eventually, the company or organization will cease to exist, broken apart by the destruction created by its negative energy.
Some suggestions for using this information in your workplace.
Some additional comments and suggestions from one of our readers:
I think when faced with a bad apple that management only needs to try and do one thing.
Dakota tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However, in our organizations, we often try many other strategies, such as:
Author: Anonymous. This is a joke circulating on the Internet. If anyone knows the correct source or author, please let us know.
We offer this bit of humor to show how misunderstanding the company's goals (letting the horse die) and lack of appropriate leadership direction can lead to massive waste of energy.
Page updated: May 23, 2012
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