When a job means more than just a meal ticket!
I was listening to the East Coast Radio who had a conversation going as to who has the best job. One listener, called in to say that she was a maths teacher and she has the best job in the world! She just loves it when her scholars have a ‘light bulb’ moment and are able to understand mathematical concepts. She loves the idea that she is helping her scholars to understand a subject which will help them in their future careers.
There was a time when certain professions were considered to be a ‘calling’. These included amongst others, teachers, doctors, nurses, game rangers and police officers. People, who chose these jobs, did so knowing that they would never be rich, it was their calling. They loved their work and they loved the opportunity to serve.
Most of us have come across such people. The fact that they love what they do really shows. For example, while it is common knowledge that the position of a game ranger is not a well paid profession, most of the game rangers I have met have really displayed pride in what they do. There is also a prestige attached to the job and most environmentally conscious people acknowledge their value to society and to future generations.
If you have occasion to deal with the staff of the Hospice Association you will soon realise that most of them are passionate about what they do. Money is not the motivator; it is their passion for helping people in distress. They are very proud of their work and what they achieve in the community.
But…this is not always the case. Over the past few years we have seen incidents on TV of nurses abusing elderly patients and more recently of striking healthcare workers threatening patients, turning them away from hospital, regardless of their medical condition. Why?
The answer is undoubtedly poor management and it starts with selection. Jack Welsh said “Find the right job and you won’t work another day!” A person who is in the wrong job cannot be passionate about their work and sooner or later, it will show. Poor performance, rudeness, hostility and lack of co-operation, absenteeism, clock watching and on-going complaints about pay and conditions of employment can be expected from these people, no matter how much you pay them.
Passion for one’s work knows no gender, colour or race! While affirmative action may be necessary to redress the imbalances of the past, it is essential that we still seek people with a passion for the work they will do. For example, a couple of years ago, my wife and I spent a weekend at Phinda Game Reserve. All the staff, from the game ranger, to the cooks and camp attendants were local Zulus. They were absolutely fantastic! Professional, friendly, attentive and helpful, they really showed a pride in their jobs and in their employer.
Dr Arnold Moll in his excellent book, Creating Winners in the Workplace, argues that people can only be truly motivated when they have a sense of pride in their work. This comes from being given responsibility, enjoying the work and recognition for a job well done.
Carrot and stick approach
While some managers still use the threat of disciplinary action in order to get people to work, this is at best a short term solution. So is trying to bribe people to do their jobs by giving them more money and perks. This seldom makes a difference; it just encourages them to demand more. We need to focus on getting passion and commitment back into our workplaces.
Get back to basics
South African employers, particularly the Public Service where service delivery is becoming a national crisis need to get back to basics:-
- Select the right people who have the right aptitude and passion for the work they will do.
- Involve employees in decision making.
- Set proper performance standards and expect employees to maintain them!
- Structure work so that there are no ‘idle hands’ and that everybody has a real job. People without enough work to do tend to complain unnecessarily and cause dissension in a workplace.
- Allow employees to have pride in their work by empowering them to make decisions and take responsibility.
- Do not tolerate poor performance but at the same time, do not jump to conclusions. Find out the underlying reasons behind an individual’s poor performance. It could be you!!
- Remember that disciplinary measures are not a crutch. They are designed to deal with non-conformers but if used inappropriately, they can do major damage.
- Train managers and supervisors so they are competent to lead and give direction.
- Recognise and reward those employees who do show passion and who are prepared to ‘walk the extra mile’.
Bruniquel & Associates