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Disenchanted At Work

Monday, August 15, 2011 by Slaughter Development

Peter is a talented graphic designer at a mid-sized marketing firm in Chicago.  And despite his well-known reputation for innovative ideas in the office, his motivation at work has fallen drastically. Interestingly enough, it’s not the financial praise and appreciation (or lack thereof) that has him down.

In four years, Peter has successfully developed several innovative projects that have resulted in three new clients for the company. In each case, he personally created the idea, presented it to upper management and fulfilled the project responsibilities necessary for implementation. From start to finish, the projects were his. Yet, the clients don’t even know he exists. According to Peter, despite his diligence, ownership over the project was never given to him.

The moment I presented the ideas, it was like I no longer mattered. Suddenly, my projects were in full swing and I was simply a mouse on a wheel. Day after day, I’d sit at my desk designing and editing while my boss facilitated the information to the clients. I was never included in meetings nor was my name ever mentioned to the client.

To those outside the process, Peter’s creations appeared to be his boss’ ideas. So regardless of the praise he received for a job well done, he felt robbed of his work and drained of his creativity. To put it plainly, the motivation for further innovation was gone. He was simply burned out.

Regardless of the fact that I was successfully proving my worth in the company, I suddenly realized one day that I was completely undervalued in my job. I kept asking myself, why contribute anything further? It won’t change the fact that I’m insignificant to the client. That’s when I started updating my resume.

This story is unfortunate; particularly when you consider just how clear this lose-lose situation is. For one, Peter’s motivation at work has been damaged. Whereas before he used to entertain ideas for innovation, he’s now consumed by thoughts of inadequacy, worthlessness and even feeling cheated. His confidence level is low and he’s likely spending less time focused and more time unproductive.

The company on the other hand has a different problem. Unlike Peter, they are focused and are seemingly productive, but they’re suffering from tunnel vision. They’re so consumed with pleasing the client and getting projects completed, that they’ve ignored their priority: the team who makes it all happen. By doing so they risk the possibility of losing employees as well as the time and money invested in their careers.

Worse yet, in Peter’s case at least, they are squandering his talent. It’s no secret that Peter has good ideas. Without him, the company may not have landed three of their clients. Whether intentional or not, they are sending the wrong message. Rather than empowering stakeholders to take initiative, they’re holding them back once they do.

Sure, Peter’s situation seems out of his control. Yet, perhaps if he stopped focusing on things he can’t change about his situation, and begin asking himself what he can do to improve it, he may just find a viable solution for his predicament. For example: he could ask to take part in client meetings or have the opportunity to review client feedback.

Likewise, the company could improve their message to employees by allowing them to expand upon their roles and empowering them to take on more responsibility. They could survey employees, offer rotations through different positions, or start a mentoring program. In the end, there are many areas of contention that could be put to rest if only communication between parties improved.

Here’s the deal: no one said that navigating through office dynamics is easy. Still, we must be willing to take certain initiative (creative in nature or not) if we hope to find satisfaction in our work environment. Don’t sit through another day unhappy in your job. Take the lead and do something about it.

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Like this post? Here are some related entries from The Methodology Blog you might enjoy:

Remote Work Week - This week, The Methodology Blog at Slaughter Development will be covering the latest perspectives on  working remotely. Read on »
The Worst Place to Work - We think of the office as where we work. Yet if you really want to focus on crucial tasks, heading to our desks during regular business hours is a terrible idea.
Read on »
Sailing At Work Despite Anchors - Slaughter Development’s founder recently shared his views on a nagging question: What do you do when your office mate is an organizational boat anchor? Read on »
Want to learn more? Register now for the 2011 Productivity Series

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