The success of your business relies on the efforts of others. From your order clerk to your supplier to the freelance writer who creates your web copy, you need people who can get their jobs done. But, what if how you deal with those people is actually stopping them from doing their best?
That is just the question Tony Schwartz, founder and CEO of the consulting firm The Energy Project, asked himself. In answer, he penned the opinion piece, “Why You Hate Work,” for The New York Times, and struck a sore nerve among our nation’s workers. So much so that the piece quickly became, according to CBS This Morning, one of the magazine’s most-shared articles of the year. In fact, it had generated over 500 comments by the time the magazine was forced to turn the comments option off.
Schwartz’s premise is simple: the work ethic in our country is outdated. In their efforts to wring more productivity out of their work force, Schwartz contends, businesses are actually doing just the opposite. Driving employees to work faster is leading directly to worker burnout, and burned-out workers produce less, not more. “The way we’re working,” according to Schwartz, “isn’t working.”
In his article, Schwartz identifies key factors that counteract employee burnout. While some of them seem counterintuitive, they are fact-based. Here are some of the ways you can use his principles to get the best from your writer.
- Renewal – For effort to be effective, hard work must be followed by a period of recovery. While you can’t insist that your writer take time off, you can encourage it. If you have a writer who is working on a long-term or multi-staged project, for instance, don’t insist that the next assignment start immediately. Allow your writer some downtime to rest and renew.
- Emotional needs – You’re a business person. It’s not your job to handhold the people who work for you. But the operative word in that last sentence is “people.” Human beings have human needs and emotions, and work best when they feel supported. You can be supportive by being available to answer your writer’s questions, for instance, or trying to accommodate her if she has a scheduling conflict. Workers feel 67 percent more engaged when they have supportive supervisors, and, engagement directly correlates with productivity.
- Sense of purpose – Purposeless work leads to the highest levels of disengagement. If you can, give your writer a clear understanding of the purpose of your business and the writing you assign. If your writer can align herself with that sense of purpose, she will feel she is doing work that matters.
- Feedback – Lack of feedback leads to a sense of cynicism and despair. Effort that simply disappears into the void quickly starts to feel meaningless. When you can, tell your writer what she is doing right — or even wrong. Let her know that her voice is being heard and her efforts are noticed.
Kate C always writes with a sense of purpose. She lives in the desert but dreams of the mountains. She shares her home with her husband of 27 years and a fat, sassy Boston terrier named Tess.