If you are an employee, it might help identify a bad work experience early on before you are stuck there for years. If you are a manager, it is good to review these three areas to spot these signs in your own groups and improve your teams. For both employees and employers, it is good to know the major causes of dissatisfaction at work. Keep in mind no company is 100% perfect, and almost everyone will be able to connect with one or two of these workplace ailments; however, if you see more than a few of these problems in your job, then it may be time to consider that your company is not a happy place to work and could use some improvement.
1. Your company: Is the entire company dysfunctional and a horrible place to work?
Many companies create a work environment that makes being there eight hours a day (or more in many cases) an undignified experience. This could be the actual physical environment, which could mean the people in the company are jerks and shady characters.
- Employees fight against each other – The atmosphere of some companies feel like a dystopian wasteland where the motto is everyone for themselves. It is difficult to get help from other employees and departments. Even worse, they actively try to sabotage your projects to make you look bad. This makes for a very stressful environment. Employees who get along with each other, help each other, and act as a supportive team generally function like one.
- No one gets promoted – Are you waiting for your manager to die so that you have a chance at promotion? Not every company is built to allow regular promotions. Maybe there is little growth, or the bridge between job titles is too great. In these cases, management needs to make up for the lack of real promotions with increased salary and additional numbers behind your job title. Even if there is no direct path from flight attendant to pilot, there should be a clear path to flight attendant level II and senior flight attendant. The company must provide growth, increased skills, learning programs, and regular salary increases above inflation adjustments.
- Responsibilities are increased without the corresponding increase in authority. If your company expects you to perform ever-increasing tasks and lead projects and programs, there needs to be a publicly known increase in authority that gives you the ability to accomplish these tasks. This should be done in the form of a new job title or a public announcement stating you are in charge of certain aspects of a program. This allows people to know that you are not just being nosey and bossy but also doing your job.
- The skilled are not promoted – Often, managers and entire companies reward friends or those most visible in the company over the most experienced and reasonable person for the job. This could be due to nepotism. It could be due to the qualified person being the only one who can perform a specific job and promoting them would move them away from the current position.
- No respect for employees – Employees are treated as property with no interest in their needs. They are never asked for their opinion and never kept up to date on company direction. They are given no privacy, no independence, and are without the tools they need to perform at their best. Finally, they are used up and spit out once they are no longer of value.
- Appearance more important than results – Companies often choose to measure work hours, meeting attendance, or the appearance that work is being done, even if creating that appearance takes away from actual productivity. These things often correspond with results, but the real progress in the end and results need to be counted. Sometimes a unique and unstructured workplace can birth the most remarkable creativity. Companies need to be mindful that one size does not fit all.
- No time off – Vacation is made available and advertised on job descriptions but cannot be used since everyone is too busy or taking a vacation is frowned upon and seen as being lazy. Vacation accumulates and is lost. Employees lose their personal life and become burnt out.
- Payment is late or skipped – the company is not fiscally solvent enough or responsible enough to pay employees what was promised. Checks are late or missing. If this happens once due to some mistake, it may be forgivable. If it happens often, then the company is stealing from you and not worth your time.
- No one ever gets fired – A bad coworker can bring everyone down. Maybe others are forced to do their job, or they cause hostility or lack of fluidity in the group. Whatever the case, the management team needs to have the backbone to stand up to these people and not let them harm the rest.
- Employees cant tie what they do to the success of the company. It is crucial for employees to feel they are part of a more significant project and how their roles are essential to its success. The management team needs to keep them informed on company projects and how they are helping and share celebrations with them when goals are met.
2. Your manager: As a leader and a person
Managers set the tone and call the shots for the group and can make your work-life pleasant or crush your spirit. Managers are usually a key component as to if a person is happy at work. Good bosses are positive leaders for a department, insightful sources of experience, ambassadors to other departments, and fight for their team during meetings with upper management. Bad bosses create a pocket of terror in an otherwise good company and tend to block progress more than help it along.
Here are a few common characteristics of a bad boss:
- Everything is a top priority – Some managers are very good at creating artificial stress in their department by inflating the urgency of every project. A good manager knows that their employees need a break and save the red alert situations for real emergencies.
- Promising the world to upper management – Weak bosses cannot say no to upper management; they pass on every request to their employees even if it is impossible. These bosses rarely provide good leadership. Other departments and even employees in their group take advantage of them. We also see this with managers who are more interested in promoting their own career over the needs of the group they lead. If their employees work long hours to complete every project that is asked, it looks good for the manager and cost them little time to say yes.
- Boss is overemotional and egoistic – Many bosses seem to confuse yelling and being a strong leader. Often the loss of emotional control is used to hide a manager’s lack of real skill. Some schools of management seem to promote harsh words and threats as a way to motivate employees.
- Takes advantage of you – During slow job markets, many bosses take advantage of the situation by cutting pay raises to their employees, increasing work hours and generally rolling back promises to employees. They know there are not many other jobs available due to the economic situations or realities of your type of industry. Bad managers often use this to their advantage and forget you are a real person and not a commodity.
- Doesn’t give positive feedback or guidance for improvement – Good managers give timely and regular feedback. They frequently and publicly praise employees‘ work when it is good and provide private feedback on how to improve when it needs improvement. Managers should not wait for yearly reviews to state progress or blow up at employees when things go downhill for months. Employees should know their role and have expected, required tasks that are achievable. Goals should not constantly be changing. Feedback should be given as goals progress. Finally, suppose employees work long hours for extended periods. In that case, there must be reciprocal signs of appreciation from the management team to make sure the team feels appreciated and rewarded.
- Your boss hates you – A bad boss may not be able to get over perceived differences with you. Maybe they think you have different political beliefs or a different work style than they have. They may allow this to cloud your work relationship and cause them to constantly be hostile toward you. Good bosses don’t get stuck on these differences and can work with a wide array of personality types. They work well with the entire team and take an interest in each person individually. This allows the boss to know the strengths and weaknesses of each person in the team and know how to motivate them and get the best results from each individual. One person may not work well with constant supervision, but they may end up being the strongest employee in the team with little room. Building these relationships also creates camaraderie with the team. It can avoid situations where employees appear to lose interest in their work or snap unexpectedly.
- Micromanaging – bosses who don’t trust their employees will spend most of their time (and yours) checking your progress and questioning how you choose to attack a problem. This is fine for new employees or employees who work best if they have constant supervision. Still, if your manager doesn’t recognise your worth and intelligence after 15 years on the job, it can feel demeaning. This is made even worse if the boss is incompetent and knows less than you do but still insists on looking over your shoulder and commenting on every action. Managers need to let skilled employees do their job and give them room. They should value their opinions and allow them to bring questions and concerns to the boss when they have them.
- Not around enough – If your boss is never available to be a leader, we have the opposite extreme micromanagement. Managers are put in place for a purpose, and if they do not guide the team, then someone else will. This can cause the team members to have to perform the manager’s role without any of the authority. They will not have the connections with upper management and will miss out on the guidance, direction, and experience a good manager would provide. This can cause bickering between group members and force employees to go around the usual chain of command to get things done.
3. Your roll: What do you want to get out of your job versus what you are actually getting
Maybe there is nothing inherently wrong with the company, but this work environment is just not the best place for you.
- Not what you expected – If you went into your current position with a salary expectation and you ended up getting paid significantly less, that salary gap is going to eat at you. You may be happy performing a job for free if that is what you set out to do, but if you are not getting paid what you believe you are worth, then your salary goals will keep you from being happy at that job.
- You have no interest in what your company does – There is something to be said of being proud of what you do and where you work. If you believe chewing gum is destroying the lives of children, then you are not going to be inspired to work harder at a chewing gum factory. Suppose you hate what your company does or are even apathetic to its goals. In that case, your only motivation for working there is money. You will have no enthusiasm and will not care about anything but your paycheck. If the money itself is not so good, then your motivation for the job will be minimal at best. Alternatively, if you believe the products or services your company produces are really great or are helping benefit the world, you will have extra incentive to go to work every day.
- You work hard but have no rewards or successes – In a school setting, this is called busy work. You work hard each day, but nothing of value is ever produced. You never get to celebrate the launch of a new product or start to work on new exciting projects. Every day is the same meaningless assembly line style tasks. No matter how hard you work, there is no difference in your level of success, and you never get to see the fruits of your labour.
- You are not doing what you love – You spend a lot of time at work every day. Are you doing what you love or even what you are good at? Is this a creative outlet for your talents and passions, or does it just pay the bills? Maybe you’re not meant to work for someone else but for yourself. Have you thought of starting your own business?
Flip these attributes for a good company that is healthy, productive, focused and driven.