David Zax over at Fast Company wrote a piece this week about “job crafters”. These are people who, despite being stuck in a job that lacks stimulation, find a way to give value to their work and actually enjoy it. The piece follows the findings of Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski, who interviewed countless cleaners at hospitals throughout the country.
When I think of career options and cleaners, I generally (and possibly very inaccurately) consider them to be people who don’t see many other options in terms of choosing their work. In Wrzesniewski’s interviews, many people reflected this idea. They were there for the benefits and they did not particularly enjoy it.
But she also found a significant proportion of people who did enjoy their job. How could anyone enjoy such a monotonous and gruelling job, you ask yourself? Well, these people attached an emotional and relational importance to what they did.
How’s that for an insight into how to engage your employees!
The second group of people described their job position of cleaning a hospital in terms that focused much less on the actual work and much more on the positive outcomes of their work. Wrzesniewski relates that they took special care in their work, building relationships with patients to do their job better, down to which cleaning chemicals irritated them less.
One interviewee still writes letters to some patients she met during their visits, one talked about taking note as to which patients had less visitors and spending more time with them. Another referred to themselves as a healer and described that their job as doing everything within their power to make the hospital clean and sterile so patients could heal quickly.
Wrzesniewski explained “It was not just that they were taking the same job and feeling better about it, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and whistling. It was that they were doing a different job.”
These kinds of people create the job they want within the realms of the job they have. Fantastic. We all wish we had more of those at our company.
Unfortunately, those of us not naturally disposed to such an incredible attitude need a little more help. So how to we apply this idea to the employee who always shows up late and always does a sloppy job.
The key lies in giving employees a higher purpose. I’m not talking religious experience here, just a reason other than the task at hand to come into work. Perhaps, like these job crafters, focus on the positive outcomes of the work, or foster an environment in which relationships hold core importance – be it with customers, providers, or even colleagues.
In many ways, a manager is like a coach. It’s your job to get the best out of those under your charge, to find out what motivates them and help them get to where they want to go. Humans are relational creatures. We all like feeling as though we are contributing something positive to the world.
Your job as a manager, is to help your employees see the good they are can and do bring to the business.