Don’t Treat Employees Like Cogs in the Machine

Don’t get me wrong. Managers should absolutely strive for efficiency in the workplace. But too often, productivity initiatives sacrifice employee wellbeing and happiness in pursuit of said efficiency. In a CIO.com post, Paul Glen, author of Leading Geeks, describes the negative effects of an assembly-line model when applied to IT workers. While Glen is speaking specifically about the IT sector, the principle behind his article spans across all departments: The cost of achieving more efficient workflows at the expense of employee health will inevitably exceed the value of any time saved.

Hire the person, not the process

Consider that when you hire employees with the intention of plugging them into an assembly line and expecting production, you’re not really hiring a person. Paul deftly ties this idea back to the process-based language of the IT industry,

People are not subroutines to be called when their exposed services are needed. They are flesh and blood with feelings and aspirations. Most people in IT are not disengaged, uncaring drones only interested in trading hours for money. They care about the people around them and the quality of their craft, and they hope that their work can make positive contributions. They feel excitement and resentment and fear and boredom.

Paul speaks from experience with his peers, and support teams constructed for the sole purpose of maximizing IT support tickets can treat their team members harshly. Yes, the team’s resolution rate might be high, but supporting this type of process often leads to high turnover, low employee engagement, and diminishing morale. And it’s rarely sustainable for the long term.

Risks of employee burnout

Efficient teams and happy employees aren’t mutually exclusive. Happy and healthy employees work hard for the companies that foster their well being. On the contrary, when a company focuses solely on efficiency and workflow, Paul points out that employees can feel isolated, bored, trapped, afraid, and demotivated. He also suggests that employees feel “There’s no beginning or end, no excitement that comes with new challenges, and no sense of accomplishment that comes with the completion of a project.”

Yikes. Employees having thoughts anywhere near those can’t produce their best work. Paul writes that employees left in these work environments for too long can become “emotionally depleted and fragile,” which offers no good outlooks on team longevity.

Combatting this starts with hiring the right managers. Leaders who understand the importance of healthy employees and transparent cultures can accomplish great things. Ensure that workflow doesn’t take precedent over the needs of employees, and the team will flourish. And when the team flourishes, so does productivity and efficiency.

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