Have you ever been in a situation as a customer with a problem which had an obvious and easy solution but the person helping you couldn’t help you because of a company policy or rule? Maybe both of you knew what had to be done and both of you felt the futile frustration of the inability to act quickly and responsibly.
Perhaps you were the employee who could not take action on the customer’s behalf or apply an obvious solution to a problem at work because of company rules. This is another of the six job-employee mismatches which can lead to burnout at work. A lack of control in one’s work is a front running cause of job related burnout.
In her book, The Truth About Burnout, Dr. Christina Maslach says the following about a lack of control in the workplace:
“People want the opportunity to make choices and decisions, use their ability to think and solve problems, and have some input in the process of achieving the outcome for which they will be held accountable. There is a world of difference between being accountable and being constrained by rigid policies and tight monitoring.”
Unfortunately, most large companies and organizations throughout the country are trending toward centralized control, just like governmental policies. Cookie-cutter approaches to producing a product or providing a service are often employed in order to control costs and streamline operations. More times than not, though, the employee feels overly controlled and grows to resent or hate it.
Thus, organizations become intolerant of creative problem solving in lieu of centralized control which squelches individual autonomy. This reduces an employee’s capacity to set limits, exercise creative problem solving, select individualized approaches to work, allocate needed or limited resources and to prioritize tasks.
Centralized control seeks to take the responsibility for decision making away from the employee. The unintended consequence of this is an employee who no longer feels responsible for what transpires at work. In essence, they no longer are responsible.
Under these circumstances, employees feel un-empowered to improve conditions on the job. Innovation goes out the window. Creativity is stifled. With more and more centralized control they get the uninvited messages of “you’re too stupid, you’re too dumb, your judgment is poor, we can’t trust you, you’re inept or you are not capable.”
Unable to act promptly, decisively and responsibly, an employee may become the object of ridicule and anger from other members of the team or from customers. Cold and automated management becomes cold and automated work staff performance. The overall effect is a loss of interest in the job, monumental frustration and anger – the emotional hallmarks of job related burnout.
You know, it just doesn’t have to be this way.
Centralized control could mean allowing more individual employee autonomy within set guidelines rather than relying on strict and rigid rules for every decision to be made. The goal should be to foster individual creativity and innovation in decision making rather than squelching it.
Please, return here next week as I continue this series on the job-employee mismatches which lead to job related burnout and what to do about them. In the meantime, do you feel a lack control in your current work situation? If so, can you describe how you feel?