Today’s episode is all about how to create meaningless work
Seriously, what could you do to make someone’s work utterly pointless?
Think about the worst managers you have had. What did they do to make you dread going into work?
I asked this question to my Positive Psychology students at City University in London this week. I can’t recall a more animated discussion.
I’ll tell you my students’ answers later. First let’s hear what the research has to say
Catherine Bailey and Adrian Madden researched meaning in work and concluded that there are 7 Deadly Sins to steer clear of. They interviewed 135 people working in 10 very different occupations ranging from lawyers to garbage collectors. This is what they found.
The first and gravest sin is to disconnect people from their values. Force them do things they know are wrong. So imagine that you are boss trying to promote a product that worsens pollution. To commit this first and worst deadly sin all you have to do is ask a climate change campaigner in your team to lie about the benefits of this product
Taking your employees for granted is the second sure way to reduce meaning in the workplace This one’s easy. Just never say good morning to your staff even if you are in the same lift . Also, remember never to thank them even when they’ve worked hard to achieve an important milestone.
Deadly sin number three is to give people pointless work to do. This a no-brainer. All you need to do is arrange long meetings, have agenda items which are pretty irrelevant to most attendees, and then decide nothing. If you do decide something, make sure you don’t follow it through. A pretty meaningless waste of time, don’t you agree?
The fourth deadly sin is to treat people unfairly. You will get ample opportunity to do this comes to pay-rise season. Give a pay rise to someone who is good at being friendly to management but bad at their job. That should do it.
Overriding people’s better judgement is the fifth way to make work meaningless. Give people targets they can reach only by cutting corners.
Sin number 6 is to disconnect people from supportive relationships. Make sure your staff work on their own, especially if they are inexperienced. Don’t bother to give then any training.
The seventh deadly sin according to Madden and Bailey is to put people at risk of physical or emotional harm. Come winter time turn all the heating off and you can achieve this goal and save some money at the same time!
My students argued convincingly that there are other good ways to prevent work from being meaningful. Find fault in everything, Say no to positive suggestions. Say one thing then do another. Remove interesting challenges These are all extra ways tht you can ruin even the most potentially meaningful job.
So who was the worst manager you ever had when it comes to making work meaningless? How many of these deadly sins did they commit?
Well, That’s all very interesting, you may be thinking, but is anything I can you do to make the workplace better? I’d suggest that sharing this podcast and its associated blog at http://blog.timlebon.com with some colleagues or, if you dare with your manager.
Wishing you happiness, wisdom and meaning - until next time,