I was reflecting recently on a Catalyst conference DVD that I saw where Pat Lencioni spoke on the “Three Signs of Job Misery.” One of his main points stuck with me: anonymity.
We’ve all felt it at times. The feeling that nobody notices you.
It was a saturday night. I was invited by some friends to check out a party that was coming up. They gave me the address. They gave me the time. Everything was a green light. This was before the days where everyone had cell phones, so there was no last-minute way to tell someone if there was a problem.
The party was to begin at 9:00pm, but wanting to be fashionably late, I arrived around 9:15pm. I blame the extreme punctuality of the subway system in Singapore.
The music was pumping and it was dark as I was led down to the basement where the party was being held. I immediately began scanning the room for my friends. They were there. I was sure. But as I continued watching the bobbing and frolicking heads, the arms raised in the air, and the brief moments when the strobe lights would hit someone’s face, my heart began to sink. My friends were not there! In that brief moment of extreme clarity as heat came over my face and adrenaline rushed through my heart, the truth that I was alone came upon me.
I wasn’t alone, of course, but I was anonymous. I recognized a few faces in the crowd, and whether they recognized me or not, I was not acknowledged. I left there about thirty minutes later, tired of acting like I was having fun on the sidelines.
I know, poor me, right? The high school kid who didn’t get acknowledged at this party. Boo-hoo. Yes, I will accept your cookie.
In a greater sense, though, millions and millions of people are going through this same misery in their jobs, organizations, and churches.
What makes a job miserable? Is it the difficulty of picking up garbage cans all day? Is it the pressure of fixing the company network when everyone is waiting on you. Is it the monotony of making hundreds of files and sending dozens of faxes per day?
I’d like to suggest that what makes a job miserable is being anonymous in a job. What makes a miserable/difficult job tolerable is being acknowledged in your job.
To be acknowledged in your job means that people show a personal interest in you as a person. I know…for many this sounds a little too touchy-feely, but it’s true.
My wife has worked for a year and a half as a special ed teacher, and yet today is her last day. Why? Is it because of the difficulty of teaching special needs kids? Nope. She says it’s because she never received much support from her leaders. The principals were cold, and always seemed too busy to care. She asked for help with different things at different times, but the leaders didn’t follow through.
It all boiled down to her sense that the leaders did not care about her.
She felt anonymous.
So what can you do if you lead a team of people?
Care about them. I know….this is really technical and heady stuff, but listen on. Talk to them. Ask them about their life. Ask them about their families. Publicly acknowledge them when they do a good job. Get to know what their hobbies and likes are. Send them a hand-written note with an encouraging word if you feel they’re a little down.
What can you do if you work on the team, but are not the leader?
Care about the other people in your team. Instead of joining them as they rant and rave about their bosses, you be nice to them. You give them a word of encouragement. You show them that you care enough about them to remember how many kids they have.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll help someone move across the scale from having a miserable job, to a tolerable job, to a pleasurable job.