Friday, January 25, 2008

'Miserable' doesn't describe this book

Reviewed: “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (and their employees),” by Patrick Lencioni, Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley, 2007, $24.95

When I received a review copy of “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job” at my office, I was intrigued enough by the title to take it home with me and let it set up shop on my nightstand. That night, as I flipped through and saw that it was written as a fable rather than in a stodgy, “business-y” kind of way, I started reading.
I was quite surprised, a couple of bleary-eyed hours later, to find that I had torn through half of the 272-page book in one night. Yes, that’s right, I tore through a business book.
Because author and business consultant Patrick Lencioni wrote the book as a fable (a story about a regular guy and his career), it’s easy for anyone to read and understand (you don’t need to be an executive or have an MBA). Anyone who’s been a manager or who has been managed, or mismanaged as the case may be, will enjoy the tale of the fictional character Brian Bailey’s career.
Owner of a management consulting business and author of New York Times bestseller “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” Lencioni relates the tale of the likable self-made Bailey, who goes from CEO of a fitness company to manager of a pizza shop in a matter of months. He finds that his theory of management, that managers can make a difference in how employees feel about their work, applies at both corporate and the small business levels.
A miserable job, according to Lencioni, differs from a bad job, which is in the “eye of the beholder,” because it’s “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.”
In fact, studies have shown job dissatisfaction rates as high as 77 percent. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why Lencioni’s book quickly made the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek bestseller lists after being released in August 2007.
“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,” he said.
Lencioni’s “three signs” of a miserable job — irrelevance, immeasurement and anonymity — aren’t in themselves compelling, but illustrated with examples over the course of one man’s career, they come alive. Anonymity, he says, is the feeling an employee has when they discover their manager doesn’t relate to them as a human being and has no interest in knowing them on other levels. Irrelevance, according to Lencioni, is avoided by taking the time to help people understand that their jobs matter to someone. Immeasurement, Lencioni said, is when employees don’t know how to gauge their progress in their daily tasks.
“Basically, a job is bound to be miserable if it doesn’t involve measurement,” Lencioni writes. “I’m not talking about feedback from a person, like an attaboy or attagirl. That’s something else. I’m talking about objective evidence that tells you you’re doing something right. Even supposedly exciting jobs get old when you’re doing something right.”
This book is interesting and thought-provoking — it makes you think about your own work situation, be it good or bad. It makes you think about how the way you’re managed affects the way you feel fulfilled — or unfulfilled — by what you do.
If you are a manager, the book might make you think about what you can do to motivate your employees, and to ultimately help your business.
“Most people really do want to be good managers,” Lencioni states. “By helping people find fulfillment in their work, and helping them succeed in whatever they’re doing, a manager can have a profound impact on the emotional, financial, physical and spiritual health of workers and their families.”
If anything, the book encourages you to take a look at your relationships at work. It brings to mind past relationships with bosses or employees that didn’t quite work, and offers a stab at why that was. This quick read is relevant to anyone who works, be that a cashier in a retail store or a corporate bigshot.

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