Motivation: Jumping for the Jellybeans

Hello if you are reading this. Apologies for the slow progress on this blog. I am super busy studying for my MSc but still want to keep this up to share things I find interesting. One such find is a couple of you tube videos which I have linked below.

Frederick Herzberg was an American psychologist who in the 60s became well known for his theories regarding motivation in the workplace. I came across a two part video of a lecture he gave to British business people (mostly men – it was the 70s!). Apart from the interest in hearing about his views from the horses mouth, these videos are well worth a watch. Herzberg is a very engaging speaker with a wry sense of humour. He casually lights a cigarette during the lecturer (again, this was the 70s!) cuts a dashing Columbo-esque figure, giving his lecturer through the haze of smoke. Sadly, it appears there should be further parts to the video but no-one knows where they are. Still, the first two are well worth a watch to learn a bit more about how to motivate employees.

The myths and ethics of change

Feet in the sea

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” -Heraclitus

The number of books and articles about change and culture management that have been written over the past century is vast, yet unlike advancements in medicine and technology over the same period of time, we seem to have made very little progress towards ‘getting it right’.

 

On the surface it might seem that we have come a long way from the industrial revolution and the Scientific Management techniques espoused by Frederick Taylor, whereby labour techniques were studied in order to find the best possible way, and then synthesised across the organisation to maximise efficiency. The ends of organisations have not changed, only the means by which they try and achieve them. All management is about getting the most out of employees at all times with the aim of increasing production or revenue (usually both) for minimum cost. One lesson that organisations have learned over the years is that it is no longer enough just to tell your staff what to do and expect them to perform to their maximum. You have to convinced them using other means, which is how Human Resource Management (HRM) came about. HRM is equally about controlling the workforce, it just does it using human relationships rather than ignoring them as Taylorism did.

 

Incidentally, I have only recently realised this lesson applies in parenting too. No matter how much I think it should be so, it is not enough for me to just tell my children what to do an expect them to do it just because I am their mother. If I want to get them to do what I want I have to find ways to engage their cooperation, by negotiation, empathy and, yes, sometimes, bribery. The difference between parenting and management is that it is more likely that I as a parent know better than my children about what is right and safe for them. I am more emotionally developed than they, and I have a better understanding of consequences and social norms. It is generally accepted that there are good reasons why I hold power over my children, and it is also my responsibility not to abuse that power.

 

The relationships between management and employees is not quite as clear. The assumptions of power are not the same; management may not always know better, they may not be more emotionally intelligent and they do not always grasp the reality of consequences. But, as in parenting, management must be ethically considerate in wielding the power they have, especially when it comes to change and culture management.

 

The unchanging myth of change

It is a regularly espoused cliché that we live in times of unprecedented change, a claim which has been made in newspaper articles and management books for at least the past 100 years, and one that neglects events such as two World Wars, the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment, the rise and fall of major empires. How can one possibly quantify and verify such a claim anyway? Though seemingly a trivial point it is important, as such a claim is usually a precursor to the imposition of organisational change; part of the process of creating “change readiness” (Amenakis et al., 1993). The usual coda to the above claim, is that organisations need to change too, in order to fit in with the mythological ever changing environment. On the surface this seems logical, but Grey (2009) questions this very assumption. He suggests that to say organisations need to change to adapt to their environment is to ignore the fact that organisations are part of the environment. He says “…as an organization changes, it contributes to the rationale for change in other organizations, which in turn provide a rationale for change in the original environment” (pp 98).

 

Grey makes two other good points against the assumption that change is necessary. The first, in relation to the above is that with change there are always unintended consequences. Many change efforts are in fact mopping up problems from the last management’s change action; as such change becomes a cycle through various management structures and styles, of which there are only so many permutations so you eventually come back to where you started. The second point is that improving your organisation to provide a better product/service does not always necessarily lead to increased profits, because consumers are not always rational decision makers and do not always make choices based on the best product or service, but on often on other factors such as convenience, habit or principle.

 

Change is futile

Let’s assume that your organisation has ignored the fact that change is not completely necessary, or that it is something that is likely to have be engineered by its own actions. How do you go about making those changes? Well, lucky for you Amazon lists 3,822 books under change management, thousands of academics, management consultants and self appointed gurus all telling you how it is done, all essentially delivering the same message just with a different metaphor such a cheese, or hats or some kind of animal. Some of them will preface their offering with the nugget that most change programmes fail. Many studies and observers do in fact support this claim (Beer and Nohria, 2000, Kotter, 1995, Gilmore et al, 1997). But instead of questioning the ethics of imposing such large scale disruptions, which history tells us are inevitably doomed to failure, they tell you how their particular change process will be the one, the one that will do what others have failed to do before it. Usually the reasons for failure in the past are linked to what is known as ‘resistance to change’ and it is usually the employee’s fault. Even if it is recognised that management mishandled change, employee resistance is ultimately the nail in the change coffin.

 

Resistance is futile

This demonisation of employees, resistors in particular, is all too common in the change literature (Thomas and Hardy, 2011). Change is described in the language of the battlefield, and methods are proposed to suppress or overcome resistance. Discussion in this manner not only legitimises the imbalance of power between the change agent (the Changer, usually management) and the change recipient (usually core employees) but also is insensitive to the thought processes behind the alleged ‘resistance’. In fact one seemingly respectable academic textbook on change management says “Why do people resist change? Quite simply because they fear the unknown and are comforted by the familiar.” (Paton and McCalman, 2000, pp 47). If there is one thing I have learned on this journey it is that the reasons people do not change are not simple.

 

Recently, the academic literature has begun to celebrate resistance, recognising it as a positive force. Resistance can challenge the assumptions of change agents for the better (Ford and Ford, 2009),and produce new ideas. Resistors often foresee unintended consequences of change. However, even in these cases, the balance of power and control still resides with the change agent, and legitimate arguments against change are often dismissed when the complainant can offer no alternative solution. Thomas and Hardy (2011) argue that change should be viewed in the context of power relations. Power cannot exist without resistance. In their case studies of organisational changes they explore power and resistance and note how resistance crosses hierarchies, and other boundaries. Resistors can become allies and change agents themselves.

 

Even more insidious than the demonisation of change resistors, is the effort to change and manage culture in organisations. It is no longer enough for employees to come in to work and do their job, they must now share the values and culture of the organisation. That culture and values are fairly resistant to change should not stop us questioning the ethics of trying to do so. Diversity of cultures and values are essential to the success of knowledge-based organisations, and homogenisation risks group think and the stifling of innovation.

 

The cult of culture change

Values reflect our core beliefs. To attempt to alter those fundamental beliefs of employees in the name of increasing revenue or productivity seems futile at best and cult-like at worst. Woodall (1996) says “culture management might not be an exercise in deception and manipulation, but a self-deluding fantasy too.” (pp 37) The question of boundaries is commonly discussed with reference to home/work life, but more thought needs to be given to the boundaries of one’s inner life. Woodall also details further ethical considerations in the culture change process such as, who decides what the ‘right’ culture and values are, the self esteem implications of being told what you use to think and used to do (probably imposed by the last management) are now wrong and threat to the right to hold different values.

 

So, what to do? Do we just leave business to stagnate or decline if change doesn’t work? Will management consultants just hold up their hands and say “it’s doesn’t work, and it’s a little bit unethical to try anyway”? No, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. What most of the studies say is not that change rarely works, but that change management programmes rarely work. That is not to say that organisations will not change organically. Nor is it realistic to suppose directed change will or should disappear. Individual employees might change organically, or they might not. They may not have the strategic vision for effective that higher leaders (allegedly) have. However, as Thomas and Hardy (2011) suggest, we should stop thinking about change in terms of change agents, change recipients and change resistors. We should understand change in relation to power, and see change as part of a network of relationships. We shouldn’t just engage employees in change because we think it will make them less resistant, we should see employees as an inextricable part of the change process; at the heart of it, not a step in it.

Heart of change

Organisations that want to engage in culture and value change must enable an internal dialogue to discuss what such values might be and their relationship with wider societal values. “Culture management that disregards this in favour of a one-sided commitment is in denial of the very thing it pursues – a sense of community and belonging” (Woodall, 1996, pp 36).

We should also be wary of what the consultants and academics have to say about change, for if there was one process that worked for everyone, by definition we would no longer need their services. I don’t have any better solution to the situation I’m afraid, but, as in the demonisation and celebration of ‘resistors’ that doesn’t mean my complaints aren’t valid!

 

References

Amenakis, A. A., Harris, S. G., & Mossholder, K. W. (1993) Creating Readiness for Organizational Change Human Relations June 1993 46: 681-703

Beer, M. and Nohria. N (2000). Cracking the code of change. Harvard Business Review (May-June): 133-141.

Gilmore, T., Shea, G. and Useem, M. (1997). Side effects of corporate cultural transformations. Journal of Applied Behavioural Science, 33(2), 174-189.

Grey, C (2009). A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about studying organizations. London: Sage.

Kotter, J. (1995). Leading change: Why transformation efforts fail. Harvard Business Review, 23, 49-57

Paton, R. A. and McCalman, J. (2001). Change Management: A guide to effective implementation. London: Sage.

Thomas, R. and Hardy, C. (2011). Reframing resistance to organizational change. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 27, 322-331.

Woodall, J. (1996). Managing culture change: can it ever be ethical? Personnel Review, 25, 26-40.

Escaping isn’t for everyone

“What if money were no object?” asks Alan Watt, philosopher and populariser of Eastern philosophy. What would you do if money were no object? So do it, he counsels. I love the sentiment and love the video above, and in part I completely agree with it. Thinking about what you would do if you had no financial constraints is a really good way of figuring out what you really want to do in life.

 

There are a wealth of books around that advise the same thing; The Escape Manifesto I have reviewed on this blog, Be a Free Range Human, Screw Work Let’s Play. I love these books with their infectious hedonism, and get swept up in the quest for a better, more interesting life.

 

One criticism that might be levied at these books is the sense of entitlement and self indulgence that are necessary for the pursuit of self actualisation. Not everyone has the privilege of doing what they want in life, so why should we? That’s illogical, says Po Bronson, author of What Should I Do With My Life, “We should live like poor people? Why? Poor people sure don’t want to live like poor people – shouldn’t we take their word for it?” We can appreciate our privilege without squandering it.

 

That said, it should still be noted that Doing What You Want In Life is not the best choice for everyone.  The above books evangelise about giving up working for the Man, finding what you love and monetising it. Alan Watts proclaims that you should forget the money. While that is a noble anti consumerist statement, it’s not always practical. Real life involves responsibilities such as caring for loved ones, and after all, providing stability for our children. Besides, if we all tried to pursue our true love in life would anyone be emptying our rubbish or sweeping our streets?

 

Working for the Man should not be so readily disparaged. Entrepreneurship does not suit everyone, nor does everyone seek the insecure lifestyle of the self employed. For some people the daily drudge of the 9-5 is what enables them to do what they love outside of work; DJing at night, selling handmade goods at weekend craft fairs, or even collecting stamps. A secure wage to fund a hobby. After all, hobbies a activities that we do for fun, and sometimes to pressure to monetise and do them day in day out in order to make enough money to live can diminish the pleasure we gain from them.

 

So, what is the answer? We’ll it’s different for everyone. Figure out what it is you love (if you don’t know what that is yet, that is a whole other post!), and see if you can translate that into a career. Read the books I’ve linked to above, they’ll help you figure out whether it is fear that is holding you back from doing what you love, or help you overcome what seem like reasons of practicality. But if you really don’t want to, or really can’t go out there and make a living out of doing what you love, don’t beat yourself up. Just make sure make the rest of the time in your life count. If you don’t, as Watts says “You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing, in order to live, that is in order to do things you don’t like to doing, which is stupid.”

 

 

Kids, a job and a degree? Yes you can!

I am currently a quarter of the way through an Masters degree in Occupational Psychology. I am studying part time via distance learning and it is going to take me 2 years. Though it is a fine balancing act between studying, working 30 hours a week and looking after two young kids, in actual fact the hardest thing has been the isolation of working alone. People regularly question how I manage it all and subtly question my sanity but in actual fact I really believe that being a mother has helped me manage this course, and here’s why:

I already have no life
Some of my student friends are struggling to fit studying in with all the things they usually do in their free time, and the endless weddings and hen nights that take up the weekends of those of a certain age. I think some of the students are finding it a shock that they have to sacrifice nights out and weekends away for sitting down and studying. Well, I have kids so I’ve already sacrificed those things. I have already been through the pain of feeling my freedom restricted. My kids aren’t reliable enough at night for babysitter, plus it is a luxury we can ill afford. So for me, most of my evenings are a toss up between studying or watching the West Wing and crocheting on the sofa. Some things have had to go; my hobbies are a bit neglected, but I have experienced the feelings of sacrifice already and I know it isn’t forever.

Every second counts
What the hell did I do with my time before I had kids? Obviously I worked full time (but I’m not far off that now), but it’s not like I was writing War and Peace. I wasn’t even reading it. We had dinner parties with friends, did a bit of jogging, but I still manage that now. All those child-free hours, I could have spent doing something useful but with the naivety of youth I just frittered them away. Now every hour is accounted for, and if I am lucky enough to have “free time” every minute is squeezed dry. Because of this when I sit down to do my work I’m very conscious of time. I know how many hours I need to spend on my studying, and how many hours I have available in the week, and there is little slack. If one of the kids is sick for a couple of days that writes off a few evenings of work that I can’t afford to lose so I know I have to keep on top of things.

Less pressure to be top
I did really well in my first two degrees, a First and a Distinction. Anything less in this one is going to feel like a step back. Academia is my thing. I nearly cried when I got 55 in my first assignment. But what with combining a nearly full time job, two kids and other activities with this degree, everyone is just going to be impressed if I pass. I’m nearly coming around to that view myself. Nearly.

It’s not the hardest thing I have ever done
I survived 10 months and more without a full night’s sleep. I have breastfed while suffering from an excruciating migraine. I have driven through the night to get a baby suffering from chicken pox to stay asleep. I have cared for a sick husband and toddler a week after giving birth. I have given birth. Twice. With no drugs. I have gone to work leaving my children in the care of virtual strangers for the first time. I have raised two charming and clever children. In terms of the hardest things I have done, a part time degree is not even up there.

Everyone thinks I am doing an amazing job
There is nothing quite as motivating as praise from other people, and lots of people have expressed their admiration at what I am doing. My mum and dad have both said how proud they are, as has my husband. And my step-mum went so far as to give me a significant chunk of money towards my course, because she felt I really deserved it. When really, as I have just explained, in some ways it is easier for me than everyone else, you know, what with having no life and all. Blown that myth now haven’t I?

And on top of all that it helps that I love psychology, really want a new job, and am fortunate enough to be fairly bright. My reason for writing this post is really to inspire other people out there to push their boundaries, especially other parents. I worried for ages about whether I could cope with doing this course. Yes I’m a bit grumpy sometimes, I feel like I have no time to decompress, but it will all be worth it in the end. And as with most things in life, it hasn’t been as hard as I feared. So if you are thinking of taking something on, and are wondering how you would cope when you have children, my answer is this – having kids: probably the hardest thing you will ever do. Whether you are thinking of doing a degree, starting a business, writing a book, it’ll be easy in comparison. And by virtue of the skills you will have picked up just from having kids, you will be even better equipped for whatever you take on.

Escape The City

The Escape Manifesto

The Escape Manifesto

I first came across this book on Twitter; someone I follow linked to it. “Quit your corporate job – do something different” reads the tag line. “Ha”, I replied cynically (and somewhat rudely really), ” does it come with a year’s salary?”. One of the authors tweeted back urging me to read it and find out, but even more kindly, given my rudeness, he offered to send me a copy for free. Well, there was an offer I couldn’t refuse. This review is completely unprompted however, and just something I am doing because I want to share this book with you, which is clearly what the authors were banking on.

The Escape Manifesto is written by three chaps, Rob, Dom and Mikey, who, fed up with their corporate cubicles created a website called Escape the City, which aims to pair up smart professionals with exciting and unusual jobs and opportunities. The Escape Manifesto is a spin off from their website, which gives the reader valuable advice on how to make the transition from the corporate world into, basically, an adventure. Despite the Famous Five overtones this book is eminently practical. It doesn’t have the gung-ho “if I can do it anyone can!” element of many books in this genre. It cautions patience, advises money sense and promotes hard graft. Interweaving their personal story through the book, the authors aren’t proclaiming to be authorities on the topic, they just genuinely want to share the benefit of their experiences, good and bad.

The book is written in bite sized chunks, which seems to be the style du jour in the publishing world, but which I personally find annoying. For the busy reader it means you can dip in and out of it, picking up titbits each time, but I like to get into a flow, maintaining the narrative.

The authors are pretty practical about financial issues, though I am clearly not their target market. They all came from jobs that were exceedingly dull, but with large salaries. Their idea of saving is not buying a £1000 pair of shoes. So many of these books and talks that I have been to at events have been about jacking in your job to start your own business, but most of these people, at the ones you hear from (i.e. the most successful) left pretty high flying jobs in the city. Yes, being an accountant at a big city firm must be very dull, but for many of us our jobs are dull AND poorly paid! There is also no mention of any sort of dependents, spouses, children. That’s pretty understandable considering none of the authors had children, but again, it’s another indication I’m not the target market, and some of the advice just won’t work for me. They do say “If living a life on your own terms was easy we’d all be doing it and there’d be no need for Escape the City or this book. It is important to remember that very few decisions are irreversible.” That last line is one I use a lot, and is a good thing to remember when you are having to make a tough decision.

A message that comes throughout the book is that you don’t have to have it all figured out straight away, and your next opportunity might not be the ‘perfect’ role, but it is about the journey. If you are waiting for the Damascene moment, you will never escape; you have to make it happen. I like that they never tell you to “quit your job now!”, in fact they vociferously advise against it. You have to build things up slowly until it becomes viable to leave. And when you do – don’t burn your bridges!

All in all I really like the book and would recommend it to anyone feeling stifled by the drudgery of corporate life (or even home life – there is no reason why this can’t apply to parents at home with their kids). Even if you aren’t a young professional, there is enough in here to be useful. Without dictating or excessive use of exclamation marks they gently suggest that there might be more to life out there, while acknowledging that going it alone is not going to be for everyone.

 

Why am I here?

I studied psychology in various forms for about 7 years, A Level, BSc, a part time Masters, and by the seventh year, having also worked as a researcher for 18th months in the University, I graduated swearing off a professional career in psychology. I wasn’t going to ponce around in a lab, making tiny tweaks to pointless experiments, chasing over inflated grant payments, and negotiating faculty politics. No, I wasn’t going to work in a self-important bureaucracy any longer. So I joined the Civil Service…

 

And thus continued years of not knowing what I wanted to really do, looking for, not my niche, but for what I wanted to really do with my life. I eventually found it in various personal development workshops at work. Finally I was listening to presentations where I understood everything that was being said; I was doing ‘pink and fluffy people stuff’ which everyone around me hated but I LOVED! And so after much soul searching, the process of which I will share at a later date, I came to Occupational Psychology, psychology of the workplace. Through my work I want to help people have a happier time at work, and for a business, happier people will be more productive and more loyal, the two main things you would wish from your staff.

 

I share things I have learned on my course, things I have learned about myself, and things I have learned from other people, and where possible I want to make sure the things I share have a solid evidence based background, or else are just common sense! I hope you enjoy reading and I hope I can help you have a better day at work!