We have a problem with employee engagement in the U.S. It’s increasing.
According to a 2018 study by Gallup, 34% of U.S. employees are engaged in their job, tying the highest this number has ever been. Employee engagement is the second pandemic of our generation, and it’s time we do something about it. That something is more fake work.
Some of you might be surprised right now. Long has the corporate majority sponsored 401K matching, backpacks, and water bottles to create employee engaged cultures.
But is it working?
Do we have companies where employees show up feeling inspired, safe during the day, and head home fulfilled? Jerry Seinfeld said to George Costanza “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” The answer then is not more engagement programs, but more fake work.
Below are 3 steps you can talk about implementing today in order to create more fake work in your business.
Make the Strategy Fuzzy
When the company’s strategy is fuzzy, divisions or departments select their own fashionable criteria for success. Sales chases low and away instead of working the count. Operations dilutes quality to hit
key performance indicators. Client experience reduces call time, not calls. The result feels like listening to a Beatles and Rolling Stones album at the same time. No longer music, just noise.
When everything is important, nothing is. It’s been proven that the human brain can only hold up to three to four concepts simultaneously. In the knowledge economy, employee brain power is the scarcest resource. In a fake work culture, we spend it on status reports.
Too many priorities dilute focus and confuse execution. It creates environments where everything is 80% complete and 0% usable.
How many priorities are too many you ask? And therein lies the answer.
Priority (singular) in the Merrian-Webster online dictionary means “superiority in rank, position, or privilege.” Somewhere along the way we made it plural.
Simple, and effective, meeting fatigue is when you replace the act of working with talking about work. When needing to make a decision, invite more people to your meeting than necessary. Nothing breeds fake work faster than group accountability.
If you belong to an experienced fake work culture, an advanced tactic can be to skip the meeting and facilitate the discussion through email. (Proceed with caution – this approach has been known to cause fake work overdose).
What Fake Work Is Costing Us
OK. Time for me to stop the charade. Here’s the truth: Fake work is what is costing us inspiration, safety and fulfillment at work…that’s a high cost.
Stunting inspiration as the best ideas are drowned out by the equal pursuit of average ones. Terminating safety when leaders realize they can make the same progress with 20% less staff. Robbing fulfillment because you never find treasure in shallow waters.
“Yes, I will do the opposite” George replied to Jerry. “I used to sit here and do nothing, and regret it for the rest of the day, so now I will do the opposite, and I will do something.”
That something starts with clarity. Clarifying for your organization the customer you serve, the problem you solve and why someone should choose you. And then communicate it on repeat. Ask your team to repeat it back. That’s what music sounds like.
Then become narrowly focused through intention and choice. Begin with what’s in your control, your goals or your team’s goals, and work outwards. Paradoxically, this enables you to execute more. Steve Jobs famously said “I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done.” But my favorite quote is by the tech giant “Anonymous” who said “we can do anything we want, but not everything we want.”
Lastly, create an environment where employees are brave enough to turn off email to dive into a serious problem that hasn’t happened yet. The treasure is always in the deep end. Again, begin with yourself and work outwards.
You now know how fake work operates, the crowd it hangs out with, the bars it visits. Sometimes success begins with knowing what not to do. Fake work is the second pandemic of our generation, and it’s time we do something about it. That something is you.