"Misery Loves Company." Is It Finding It In Your Workplace?

by | November 12, 2009

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In a weekend editorial, theNew York Times talked about how the show Mad Men is helping today's disaffectedviewers enjoy television by presenting them with a parade of characters who areeven more unhappy than they are. The article mentioned Columbia psychologist Stanley Schacter, who said"Misery doesn't love just any kind of company -- it loves only miserablecompany."  That same kind of"miserable company" now works in your office: They're all sufferingthe same shocks of slumping household economies and plummeting companymorale.  Executives can view themiserable masses with disdain, or help them to exit that category. 

One way of doing so isthrough education.  It's hard tofeel sorry for oneself while the brain is engaged in mulling over newconcepts.  A formal seminar ortraining class is great, but the prospect doesn't have to involve an expenseaccount.  Why not establish alunchtime learning program, where employees and managers can volunteer to speakon topics that touch on work-related issues?  (Or even ones that don't.)  By providing an excuse for employees to get together, yourworkers will feel less alone. (Alright, that's fairly obvious, but effective nonetheless.)  For workers, "less alone"translates to "part of a living, breathing enterprise," and then it'sjust a short jump to "I'd like to make my best effort and keep the(corporate) animal alive." 

Our often-touted idea that"little perks can mean a lot" belongs in this category, but here'sanother suggestion: feedback. Carol Bartz, chief executive at Yahoo.com and former leader of Autodesk,recently told an NYT interviewer that she thinks the concept of annualperformance appraisals is "so antiquated."  She said "I have the puppy theory.  When the puppy pees on the carpet, yousay something right then, you don't say six months later, 'Remember that day,January 12th when you peed on the carpet?' That doesn't make any sense.  (Say) 'This is what's on my mind.' …Iwouldn't do annual reviews if I felt that everybody would be more honest aboutpositive and negative feedback along the way."  Again, that criticism (any kind, though if warranted,positive is certainly better) speaks to the individual, and breaks him or herout of that 'defective herd' mentality.

You can either love youremployees or hate them.  But theystill have to perform to make you look good; with just a little push frommanagement, they can feel better and work better. 

Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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