Many of my clients really dread their jobs.
They complain about employers who treat them like machines—there to churn out whatever is required of them, regardless of the cost to their motivation, creativity or personal health. Their bosses seem to expect that they work long hours and stay glued to mobile phones at night, but then show little appreciation or, worse, micromanage them. No one likes it; but what alternatives are there when employers believe that they live in a dog eat dog world and only the fittest, meanest survive?
Plenty, according to psychologist Ron Friedman. In his new book, The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace. Friedman, a psychologist and business consultant, distils decades of research on motivation, creativity, and performance to business leaders with useful tips for restructuring work environments to increase innovation, efficiency, and even joy in the workplace.
Some of Friedman’s suggestions may come as a surprise for those not familiar with the science of human behaviour and can seem downright counterintuitive. For example, he suggests that companies wanting to be successful and on the cutting edge of innovation need to embrace failure in their employees. That’s right, failure. “Accepting failure doesn’t just make risk-taking easier,” he writes. “In a surprising number of instances, it’s the only reliable path to success.”
This idea comes from research on creativity showing that creative solutions most often come not from individual brilliance but from giving people the freedom try many different solutions to see which one works best. But, who can be a creative problem solver when stressed or when fearing retribution from a boss? That’s why it is in the interest of employers to give their employees permission to fail and to learn from their mistakes: it’s the path to innovation.
Friedman makes several other provocative suggestions for employers wanting to get ahead. For example, he suggests that they encourage employees to pursue outside interests on company time or to take frequent rests or even short naps on the job. Both of these have been shown help people to broaden their thinking and to make cognitive connections, which is important for innovation and job efficiency. And, for employees wanting to increase their work satisfaction, asking for more challenge and variety in job assignments or practicing gratitude can make a big difference in your happiness and productivity.
“Over time a continuous focus on what’s missing trains our minds to center on the negative,” writes Friedman. “But by taking a moment to redirect our attention to things that are going right…we restore a balance to our thinking that elevates our moods and prevents negative emotions like resentment, envy, and regret from creeping in.”
Overall, Friedman recommends fostering three things for better workplace environments: autonomy (employees having more control over their work), competence (employees having the tools they need to succeed), and relatedness (better social bonds at work).
These suggestions come as no surprise to people like me who have work in the field for over 30 years, because we have been saying the same over and over in different variations to get the message across that the “command control model is in efficient”.
A recent survey found that 36 % of self made millionaires had no higher education. The biggest obstacle is overcoming what is taught at Business Schools who are great at teaching how to manage capital and lousy at teaching how to manage people.