With resolution season upon us there are lots of opportunities for fresh starts. Some of those involve personal matters while others involve changes to be made in someone’s professional life. That’s only natural.
Still, it’s not hard to be taken aback at the way the business press is playing into the notion that individuals must subjugate themselves to their employers in order to remain at work. The headlines are breathtaking and all of a kind.
If you see a theme pervasive through all of those stories, it means you’re paying attention.
The workplace at the heart of all these and other guides envisions an environment that’s some mix of the brutal savannah, where animals vie for dominance and struggle for survival as predators circle around them, and a toddler beauty pageant where the difference between winning and losing could be as subtle as the shade of blue used in a contestant’s eyeliner. It’s everyone for themselves, and we’re all trying to shine more brightly than Frank or Carol because that’s what might make the difference when layoffs are announced.
They all hinge on the idea that it’s the sole responsibility of the employee to better themselves and increase their workplace standing. Conveniently left off the hook are managers and executives, though their influence is just as great if not greater than what any one person on their own might achieve.
It’s not that there’s no pressure on management to make things go smoothly, or that they play no role in determining productivity. It’s that their role is actually so much more influential on those issues than the power an individual, non-management employee has.
They don’t control the guidelines around remote work. They didn’t have a role in creating the office layout. They didn’t choose the software and hardware that’s used. They didn’t dole out seating assignments, or select healthcare plan options, or limit the number of times someone can take a personal phone call. Or set deadlines for projects that fail to take into account the reality of how long it will take.
A lot of the advice offered in those “be a better employee” articles is good and worth considering. Almost all of it, though, requires managers and supervisors to be supportive and accommodating, allowing workers to do what they are seeking to do. A lot of it, too, stems from the notion that workers have the time to pop into meetings they weren’t invited to, take work off their manager’s plates and so on. That may not actually be in line with reality.
Productivity is the responsibility of all parties within an organization, starting at the top. Those in charge need to put systems and processes in place that facilitate that productivity, with employees making the best of what’s offered to them.