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  • Gregory V. Murphy, P.E.

Avoiding a "Controlling" Culture to Improve Staff Happiness and Morale

Avoiding a “Controlling” Culture to Improve Staff Happiness and Morale

Over the course of my nearly 40 years in the industry, I’ve always been struck by the way that happiness among employees and managers is diminished by the tendancy of organizations to place controls on employees as a method of ensuring that critical goals of quality achievement and profitability are met.

My experience is that implementing strong controls does two things:

First, it diverts employee attention away from the mission at hand, which, for most businesses, is providing great customer service, value, and quality. Instead, it focuses attention on behaviors intended to improve metrics associated with the controls.

Second, it creates undesirable work for employees and managers (i.e. reporting, compliance work, etc.). This creates stress unrelated to the mission (customer service, value, quality) and instead related to metrics and accountability to metrics. As such, this type of undesirable work leads to reduced time on real work and, ultimately, dissatisfaction and poor morale among workers.

In the end, strong and systematic controls have a compounding negative effect on the service mission of a business, resulting in less time devoted to quality products, combined with less enthusiastic, less happy, and less productive workers and managers.

As a business owner, project manager, and design engineer, I have found that quality, great client service, and profitability are almost entirely related to the quality of the staff, their happiness, and their commitment to the mission and almost entirely unrelated to controls and measures.

Here is an article that talks a little about how giving control to employees (rather than attempting to control those same employees) promotes a happy and productive work force. The article also presents a number of other ways to promote a happy and more productive work force.

Gregory V. Murphy, P.E.

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