The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (And Their Employees) (J-B Lencioni Series)
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A bestselling author and business guru tells how to improve your job satisfaction and performance.
In his sixth fable, bestselling author Patrick Lencioni takes on a topic that almost everyone can relate to: the causes of a miserable job. Millions of workers, even those who have carefully chosen careers based on true passions and interests, dread going to work, suffering each day as they trudge to jobs that make them cynical, weary, and frustrated. It is a simple fact of business life that any job, from investment banker to dishwasher, can become miserable. Through the story of a CEO turned pizzeria manager, Lencioni reveals the three elements that make work miserable -- irrelevance, immeasurability, and anonymity -- and gives managers and their employees the keys to make any job more fulfilling.
As with all of Lencioni?s books, this one is filled with actionable advice you can put into effect immediately. In addition to the fable, the book includes a detailed model examining the three signs of job misery and how they can be remedied. It covers the benefits of managing for job fulfillment within organizations -- increased productivity, greater retention, and competitive advantage -- and offers examples of how managers can use the applications in the book to deal with specific jobs and situations.
Patrick Lencioni (San Francisco, CA) is President of The Table Group, a management consulting firm specializing in executive team development and organizational health. As a consultant and keynote speaker, he has worked with thousands of senior executives and executive teams in organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to high-tech startups to universities and nonprofits. His clients include AT&T, Bechtel, Boeing, Cisco, Sam?s Club, Microsoft, Mitsubishi, Allstate, Visa, FedEx, New York Life, Sprint, Novell, Sybase, The Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Lencioni is the author of six bestselling books, including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. He previously worked for Oracle, Sybase, and the management consulting firm Bain & Company.
- Amazon Sales Rank: #12130 in Books
- Published on: 2007-08-17
- Original language: English
- Number of items: 1
- Dimensions: 8.44" h x 1.01" w x 5.83" l, .1 pounds
- Binding: Hardcover
- 272 pages
Patrick Lencioni, renowned business consultant and bestselling author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, is on a critical mission: create widespread job satisfaction in a world full of workplace misery. His latest book, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (And Their Employees), tells the inspiring tale a high-flying, but deeply dissatisfied Chief Executive Officer who ditches the power and perks for career bliss as the manager of a pizzeria! In this unusual and inspiring story, Lencioni convincingly demonstrates how career happiness (or misery) is the direct result of the manager--employee relationship. Patrick Lencioni took the time to tell us about his life-long "obsession" with job misery, shatter some myths about workplace satisfaction and offer some real advice on how to turn that daily grind into daily fulfillment. --Lauren Nemroff
Q: Why did you decide to write this book?
A: As a kid, I watched my dad trudge off to work each day and became somewhat obsessed with the notion of job misery. Somewhere along the line, I came to the frightening realization that people spend so much time at work yet so many of them were unfulfilled and frustrated in their jobs. As I got older, I came to another realization--that job misery was having a devastating impact on individuals, and on society at large. It seemed to me that understanding the cause of the problem, and finding a solution for it, was a worthy focus for my career.
Q: What exactly is a miserable job?
A:A miserable job is not the same as a bad one. A bad job lies in the eye of the beholder. One person's dream job might be another person's nightmare. But a miserable job is universal. It is one that makes a person cynical and frustrated and demoralized when they go home at night. It drains them of their energy, their enthusiasm and their self-esteem. Miserable jobs can be found in every industry and at every level. Professional athletes, CEOs and actors can be--and often are-- as miserable as ditch diggers, janitors and fast food workers.
Q: How prevalent is job misery?
A: Attend any kind of social gathering, anywhere in the country, and talk about work. The stories and anecdotal evidence confirming job misery are overwhelming. Misery spans all income levels, ages and geography. A recent Gallup poll found that 77% of people hate their jobs. Gallup also contends that this ailing workforce is costing employers more than $350 billion dollars in lost productivity.
Q: What is the root cause of job misery?
A: The primary source of job misery and the potential cure for that misery resides in the hands of one individual--the direct manager. There are countless studies confirming this statement, including both Gallup and The Blanchard Companies. Both organizations have found that an employee's relationship with their direct manager is the most important determinant to employee satisfaction (over pay, benefits, perks, work-life balance etc).
Even employees who are well paid, do interesting work and have great autonomy, cannot feel fulfilled in a job if their managers are not providing them with what they need on a daily or weekly basis.
Q: What are the three signs?
The first is anonymity, which is the feeling that employees get when they realize that their manager has little interest in them a human being and that they know little about their lives, their aspirations and their interests.
The second sign is irrelevance, which takes root when employees cannot see how their job makes a difference in the lives of others. Every employee needs to know that the work they do impacts someone's life--a customer, a co-worker, even a supervisor--in one way or another.
The third sign is something I call "immeasurement," which is the inability of employees to assess for themselves their contribution or success. Employees who have no means of measuring how well they are doing on a given day or in a given week, must rely on the subjective opinions of others, usually their managers', to gauge their progress or contribution.
Q: Why don't managers do these things?
A: As simple as the three signs are, the fact remains that few managers take a genuine interest in their people, remind them of the impact that their work has on others, and help them establish creative ways to measure and assess their performance.
There are a number of reasons. First, many managers think they are too busy. Of course, the real problem is that most of those managers see themselves primarily as individual contributors who happen to have direct reports. They fail to realize that the most important part of their jobs is providing their people with what they need to be productive and fulfilled (a.k.a. not miserable) in their jobs.
The second reason that managers don't provide their employees with the three things they need is that they simply forget what is was like when they were a little lower on the food chain. They somehow forget how important it was to them when a supervisor took an interest in them, talked to them about why their work really mattered and gave them a means for evaluating their progress.
Finally, many managers don't do this because they are embarrassed or afraid to try. They fear that their employees will see them as being disingenuous or manipulative, or that by taking an interest in their personal lives they will be stepping into inappropriate territory. It's almost as though they fail to understand the difference between the interview process (no personal questions allowed!) and the actual work experience (treat people like a full human being).
Q: What can a miserable employee do to improve his or her situation?
A: The first thing they can do is assess whether their manager is interested in and capable of addressing the three things that are required. And they have to realize that most managers really do want to improve, in spite of the fact that they may seem disinterested.
The second thing miserable employees need to do is help their managers understand what it is they need. If they have a strong relationship with their manager, they can come right out and say it ("You know, it would mean a lot to me if you knew more about who I am and what makes me tick." or, "Can you sit down and help me understand why this work I'm doing makes a difference to someone?").
Finally, employees would do well for themselves if they turned the tables and started doing for their managers what they want for themselves. For instance, employees who take a greater interest in the life of their managers are bound to infect them with the same kind of human interest. Similarly, employees who take the time to tell their managers (in a non suck-up kind of way) about the impact they have on their job satisfaction, will likely inspire them to respond in kind.
However, if an employee comes to the conclusion that his or her manager is indeed completely disinterested in helping them find fulfillment in their work, it may well be time to start looking for a new job.
Q: Why do so many professional athletes and entertainers seem miserable in their jobs?
A: In spite of the money they make and the attention they receive from fans and the media, many athletes and entertainers experience one or all of the three signs of a miserable job.
Most professional athletes feel anonymous in their jobs because their coaches and managers dedicate little, if any, time or energy getting to know them personally. I've had coaches tell me "Hey, these guys are professionals and this is a business. They don't need anything special from me." Keep in mind that they are referring to young men in their early twenties who are living on their own for the first time and feel surprisingly alone--even with all the fan attention.
Entertainers are in similar situations, but for them, it is often relevance that suffers. Many actors cannot reconcile their celebrity and wealth with the fact that they see their work as being somewhat unimportant, in terms of impacting the lives of others. Perhaps that's why so many of them get involved in charitable causes or politics--it gives them a sense of purpose.
Lencioni, a consultant, speaker and bestselling author (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team), pinpoints the reasons behind and ways around what many consider a constant of the human condition: job dissatisfaction. According to Lencioni, job-fueled misery can ultimately seep into all aspects of life, leading to drug and alcohol abuse, violence and other problems, making this examination of job misery dynamics a worthy pursuit. Through the "simple" tale of a retired CEO-turned-pizzeria manager, Lencioni reveals the three corners of the employee unhappiness pyramid-immeasurability, anonymity and irrelevance-and how they contribute to dissatisfaction in all jobs and at all levels (including famously unfulfilled celebrities and athletes). The main culprit is the distancing of people from each other (anonymity), which means less exposure to the impact their work has (immeasurability), and thus a diminished sense of their own utility (irrelevance). While his major points could have been communicated more efficiently in a straightforward self-help fashion, his fictional case study proves an involving vessel for his model and strategies (applicable to managers and lower-level staff alike), and an appendix-like final chapter provides a helpfully stripped-down version.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Anyone who's been employed—whether self- or by an organization—will recognize the onset of the Sunday blues, which, in essence, is the dread of Monday at work. Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (2002), spins yet another fable. He tracks Brian Bailey through CEO-ship of JMJ Fitness, a much-abbreviated semi-retirement and two turnarounds. The lesson? That three qualities add up to misery at work: immeasurability, irrelevance, and anonymity. Simple in its telling, these three negative characteristics have been validated by any number of human-resources consultants, from Gallup to Watson Wyatt. People need to feel like they're contributing to a greater good, that they're valued and respected within the organization, and that what they do matters. Although the author has no specific process to follow or particular techniques to promote, he does paint a few hypothetical situations—and summarize questions that must be answered. Nothing's new under the sun, yet Lencioni's new expression of an old truth does deserve publicity. Jacobs, Barbara
Most helpful customer reviews
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful.
A Contemporary Business Fable of Compelling Importance
By Robert Morris
According to research conducted by The Gallup organization, only 25% of employees are engaged in their jobs, 55% of them are just going through the motions, and 20% of them are working against their employers' interests. What's going on? In the Introduction to his latest book, Patrick Lencioni acknowledges what he characterizes as "Sunday Blues [:] those awful feelings of dread and depression that many people get toward the end of their weekend as they contemplate going back to work the next day...What was particularly troubling for me then [when he had such feelings] was not just that I dreaded going to work, but that I felt like I should have enjoyed what I was doing...That's when I decided that the Sunday Blues just didn't make any sense" and he resolved to "figure out what [personal fulfillment in work] was so I could help put an end to the senseless tragedy of job misery, both for myself and for others."
In this book, Lencioni shares what he then learned during his journey of discovery.
As is his custom, he uses the business fable genre to introduce and develop his insights. His narrative has a cast of characters, a plot, crisp dialog, various crises and conflicts, and eventually a plausible climax. Here's the situation as the narrative begins. Brian Bailey is the CEO of JMJ Fitness Machines. After fifteen years under his leadership, JMJ has become the number three, at times two "player" in its industry. "With no debt, a well-respected brand, and plenty of cash in the bank, there was no reason to suspect that the privately held company was in danger. And then one day it happened"....
The balance of the book proceeds on two separate but interdependent levels: Brian's personal and professional development after JMJ's acquisition by a competitor, and, the impact of that acquisition on JMJ's culture. Both he and the company proceed through what Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas have characterized as a "crucible": an especially severe trial or ordeal during which those involved experience tremendous pressure that either "makes them" stronger and wiser or "breaks them" in terms of their ability and/or willingness to prevail. The details of Brian's "crucible" as well as those of JMJ's are best revealed within the book's narrative. It would also be a disservice to both Lencioni and to those who read this commentary for me to reveal the meaning and significance of the book's title.
However, I feel comfortable explaining why I think so highly of this book. Here are three of several reasons. First, Lencioni is a master storyteller. He makes brilliant use of the components of the classic fable, in this instance (as in his earlier books) creating a contemporary business situation in which human beings are involved, rather than anthropomorphic animals as George Orwell, E.B. White, and Stephen Denning do. Brian Bailey and others are anchored in sometimes "miserable" real-world situations. Their responses to these situations are portrayed with authentic drama, not with a business theorist's facile didacticism. Second, he achieves his objective of determining (both for himself and for his reader) how personal fulfillment can be achieved in a workplace. There are indeed important lessons to be learned, both by managers and by those for whom they are responsible. Finally, Lencioni entertains his reader with appropriate wit without at any time trivializing the seriousness of the issues he addresses. This is a fable, not a sermon.
Those who share my high regard for Patrick Lencioni's latest book are urged to check out his earlier works as well as The New American Workplace co-authored by James O'Toole and Edward E. Lawler, Paul Spiegelman's Why is Everyone Smiling?: The Secret Behind Passion, Productivity, and Profit, and Michael Lee Stallard's Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team's Passion, Creativity, and Productivity.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful.
Memo to Everyone I've Worked With! I'm Sorry!
By John W. Pearson
Memo to Everyone I've Worked With Over the Last 40 Years: I'm sorry! Honest! Had Patrick Lencioni written this book 40 years ago, when I assumed my first summer management position, I would have been a better leader and more nurturing manager.
His book will get your management juices going again. It's a five-star, must-read, very, very important book. (I've just moved it onto my Top 10 books of all time list--it's that good.)
In story fashion, Lencioni helps us discover why so many CEOs, senior leaders, managers and employees are miserable at work--and what to do about it. His diagnosis is simple, yet profound. The story gives practical solutions and the book concludes with a this-makes-sense discussion of next steps and case studies. Gratefully, he's also posted "miserable" resources on his website, including the anti-misery worksheet for managers.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful.
Fortunately, Lencioni Was In A Miserable Job...
By Thomas M. Loarie
Work has always held a special fascination for author Pat Lencioni. As a child, he could not believe adults, like his dad, worked eight hours a day, or more, with most not liking their jobs. "Why would people spend so much time away from family and friends and not be happy?" He feared he would meet the same fate... He did, but he refused to settle for misery and changed careers.
Fortunately, for Lencioni and for us, he has found his calling and is fulfilling his purpose by sharing his observations about what it takes to make the work experience something to look forward to, something meaningful.
In his sixth book, "The Three Signs of a Miserable Job," Lencioni identifies the three causes of job misery - irrelevance, immeasurement, and anonymity - and provides an antidote for each. "Three signs" utilizes a fable to drive home each of the "three signs" and the "cure."
Protagonist Brian Bailey loves being a manager, but he has just retired and is bored. After several visits to a local restaurant where he gets poor service and the employees appear to be disinterested in their jobs, Bailey buys into it. He then sets about implementing a "get well" program to turn around the restaurant by changing the employee's attitude toward their jobs.
Lencioni repeats the fundamentals of his "ending misery" model with a second application to a larger company when Bailey returns as CEO of a company in the industry he left.
The principles Lencioni hammers-on will resonate with all who work. He points out that job misery is widespread (a recent PEW study estimates 75%). It affects all who work, the high and mighty as well as those not so high or mighty - doctors, nurses,CEOs of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, bricklayers, toll booth operators, retail employees, sales people, Hollywood stars and other celebrities, pastors, athletes, or any other group you can name!
Managers, employees, head hunters, or recent college graduates will find "Three Signs" to be a critical addition to their library. It provides a clear course of action for those who want to ensure they are not creating misery and discernment for those seeking to escape misery.
And if you have had the chance to meet Pat Lencioni or hear him speak, you would agree he has put his plan into action - he is not miserable, he is having the time of his life "at work."