“Make it stop,” you say, “–the noise, the confusion, the stupid mistakes, the wasted time.”
When our work days amount to one distraction and miscue after another, we feel caught in an endless squeeze, desperately trying to get our work done in spite of it.
If we could only find the cause and do something about it. Or if our boss would just stop contributing to or ignoring the problems.
Alas, we’re left helpless and ultimately succumb to our new reality– frustrating disorder.
Disorder creeps up on us, our coworkers, and our boss. It grows microscopically in the folds of our daily tasks and gradually infects the way work gets done, relationships evolve, and organizations perform.
The symptoms are often in full view, but we’re too busy to notice them, until they stop us cold.
Disorder is a work management issue. You know you’re mired in it when:
- It’s unclear who’s responsible and accountable for specific work products.
- Work stalls because someone in the process flow keeps dropping the ball.
- The same errors are repeated by the same or different people.
- Mistakes are made and no one notices for a long time.
- Assignment specifics are changed mid-stream or shifted to different employees.
- All direction is by e-mail: You miss one, you lose.
If you’re a supervisor reading this, you’re perfectly positioned to fix things. If you’re an employee feeling crushed by the weight, here’s your chance to showcase your value by stepping up, identifying the cause, and proposing a solution.
If no one does anything, the disorder will get worse and all you can do is wear a helmet to keep your head together.
Lack of clarity around expectations and processes is most often the cause of disorder and confusion. The more employees and layers of management a company has, the more the internal working parts (roles, processes, and strategies) need to align.
When you feel like the air is being sucked out of you, it’s time to stop and look at what you’re doing and how. In most instances the fix is about simplifying–reducing complexity, getting back to basics, and realigning
Here are four ways to recalibrate the way you work and uncover fixes:
- Tune in: Listen to the voice that matters. Tune out the coworker noise around you. Your boss is the person whose expectations you need to meet. If you don’t understand his or her direction, then be a pest and keep asking until you do. Get clear and then get on with the work.
- Own it: Follow or create a process. Most work includes a process that, when executed effectively, delivers consistent output. You’re part of the work flow, so take ownership of your role. If there’s a snag, figure out where it is and suggest a way to alleviate it. Your fix adds value.
- Get it: Recognize boundaries. Organization charts supposedly reveal the hierarchy of roles and responsibilities in the company. When you can’t tell who’s accountable for results by the org chart, you need to ask your boss. Knowing where the buck stops can absorb some of the pressure you’re feeling.
- Do it: Prepare and submit performance goals. Self-preservation is a motivator and having specific written goals that your boss has agreed to can be a career-saving initiative. Write goals whether your boss asks for them or not. If s/he gives you goal statements, edit them to make they’re measurable and observable. If your work changes, revisit your goals with your boss. This might make his or her head explode, but it will save yours.
Simple is chic in fashion and at work. When leadership, processes, roles, and goals are aligned, outcomes take on both ease and elegance. You have more power to impact the way work is done then you think. Go ahead and seize it.