words on lips…

I wrote recently about happiness at work. It’s quite interesting as there seems to be a number of New Zealanders, or at least people using New Zealand based domains coming to these pages to investigate further. Apparently a number of New Zealanders are interested in happiness at work.

We have heard a great deal about skill shortages – ‘desperate’ – is word used, and yet from my observation (as in, no quantifiable research, merely looking through the various sits vac options), skill shortage in the Wellington catchment seems restricted to words like ‘Java Developer’, ‘Test Project Manager’, and ‘Contract’. Sure, these roles are well paid, but they’re often short term contracts – under a year. I do think a way to make a fortune in Wellington is to be able to communicate to both mortals and machines, particularly machines running databases. Most organisations I know or have heard of have dodgy data systems, and databases costing six figures.

But what’s this got to do with happiness? Today as I was taking my daily work I overheard people talking while waiting for the cross lights. They were commenting about how shattering they were finding their jobs. I’m putting words into their mouths, but the dialog went along the lines of ‘I’m a capable, competent, well educated person. I’ve got 15 years experience in the workforce, I’ve got a degree. I’m well organised, I work well with others. I’m a good person. So how come I feel so utterly incompetent and so miserable in my job?’

To which the other person responded, ‘I know how you feel – I’m much the same – I feel completely worthless – at least that’s how my manager makes me feel.’ And the first person agrees.

As I said, I’m putting words in their mouths, but I was surprised – not because they’d said it, everyone has an off day – a gripe between workmates – but because it’s something I seem to hear a lot of lately, reinforced by people find the writing here. What seems to be evident is that if there is a skill shortage it’s not only meaning ‘we’ve got a job vacancy we can’t fill’, but that middle management seems short of skills. I’m sure it’s a complex task – managing your own job and managing people into doing their jobs too. I’m equally sure, however, that it’s learnable, and teachable. I’m confident the military wouldn’t be happy if morale was so low amongst their troops.

I’ve read lately about how New Zealand needs to increase its productivity. Translated from press release talk, this means I need to work harder, more effectively, with less resources. I don’t have any problem with that – if we all had good working tools (see also databases), meaningful and comprehensive manuals, complete training programmes, and effective management I’m sure we’d all be better at what we do. But this still doesn’t address the third corner – the motivation. It’s like the crime scene programmes on tv – you have to have the opportunity, your have to have to tools, and you have to have the motivation. Oh, and then you have to act on it.

I’m unsure why management has to be so demotivating – so negative. Perhaps they also lack the opportunity, the tools, and the motivation – I have no idea. But I do know this is not a good way of doing business – it’s wasteful and it’s stupid, and hardly any way to turn New Zealand into some kind of sustainable powerhouse of productivity into the second decade.

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