Post 3 in the series The Three Signs of a Miserable Job
So far we’ve looked at what miserable jobs are (miserable jobs are to be distinguished simply from bad jobs — that is, a job you don’t like) and why this issue is important. Now we are going to look at the consequences of miserable jobs. The consequences are both economic and social.
The Economic Cost
Lencioni points out that “economically, productivity suffers greatly when employees are unfulfilled. The effects on a company’s bottom line or a nation’s economy are undeniable” (Lencioni, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, p. 219). Lencioni doesn’t elaborate on the economic cost, but there are two main ways miserable jobs affect the bottom line.
First, miserable jobs result in higher employee turnover — and that’s expensive. Higher turnover means you have to spend more money finding and training good people. And it means you lose the knowledge capital and experience that the people leaving brought to the organization. That is no small thing.
What’s worse is that companies often seek to address the turnover in the wrong way, and thus do things that attempt to solve the problem but actually have little effect. For example, companies often look to raising salaries and compensation when people start leaving. Salaries and compensation are important and you need to get that right. But often that’s not the issue — salary is not what makes a job miserable (though, again, it is important and under paying employees is going to have negative effects both for them and your organization).
As a result, an organization might increase salaries and benefits, thinking that it will solve the problem, only to find that it doesn’t. Lencioni gets at this in the foreword that he wrote for the book The Dream Manager: “In those cases where a company has been able to successfully use one of these tools to coax an unfulfilled employee into staying, they usually find that the solution is only a temporary — and a costly — one.”
This is because people work for more than money, and money is not what brings fulfillment in a job. Lack of adequate pay does create unnecessary hardship and discontent, but fulfillment comes from something else — and something much cheaper.
Second, miserable jobs result in lower productivity among those who do stay. Employees who are miserable in their jobs are less engaged and enthusiastic, and thus less productive.
And it turns out that this cost can actually be measured. As Matthew Kelly writes in The Dream Manager:
You do the math. What does your payroll amount to? If on average your employees are 75 percent engaged, disengagement is costing you 25 percent of your payroll every month in productivity alone. The real cost to your business is of course much higher when you take into account how disengaged employees negatively affect your customers and every aspect of your business.
Gallup’s studies have also shown a substantial tie between employee engagement and an organization’s productivity (see, for example, some of the early chapters of First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently).
The Social Cost
So miserable jobs have an economic cost that can be measured, both in terms of increased turnover and decreased productivity. But far more important than the economic cost is the social cost.
This is first of all because of what it does to the employee himself or herself, as we discussed in the first post of this series. But, second of all, this is because of the ripple effect a miserable job has. Lencioni writes:
A miserable employee goes home at the end of the day frustrated, cynical, and weary and spreads that frustration, cynicism, and weariness to others — spouses, children, friends, strangers on the bus. Even the most emotionally mature, self-aware people cannot help but let work misery leak into the rest of their lives.
That’s significant. Even the most emotionally mature are not immune to letting job misery spread into the rest of their lives.
What are the consequences of these ripple effects? Lencioni writes:
In some cases it is extra family stress and tension, and the inability to appreciate the blessings in life. As amorphous as that may seem, over time it impacts people’s emotional and psychological health in profound and potentially irreversible ways.
This presents an opportunity for managers and organizations. For designing work right — designing jobs to be fulfilling — is a way of serving people. Further, just as miserable jobs have spillover effects, so do fulfilling jobs. The first step towards doing this is being aware of what can make a job miserable, which we will look at next.
Posts in This Series
- The 3 Signs of a Miserable Job: An Introduction
- What is a Miserable Job?
- What are the Effects of a Miserable Job?
- What Makes a Job Miserable?
- What are the Benefits of Managing for Job Fulfillment?
- Addressing the First Sign: Anonymity
- Addressing the Second Sign: Irrelevance
- Addressing the Third Sign: Immeasurement