Your Managers Are Preventing Employee Happiness

It’s not just about big paychecks and exciting projects. It’s about flexibility. All employees say they want it, but many bosses can’t handle the implementation.

A recent study published in the American Sociological Review clearly showed that, in a white collar environment, allowing workers some control over their own schedules, including being able to work from home, had a positive effect on employees’ work-family balancewithout sacrificing productivity. In fact, the main sacrifices were low-impact meetings. In other words, when people had the flexibility to control their own schedules, suddenly meaningless meetings went away.

So, why wouldn’t everyone jump on the flexible-schedule bandwagon?

To keep reading, click here: Your Managers Are Preventing Employee Happiness

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18 thoughts on “Your Managers Are Preventing Employee Happiness

  1. I do not see employers rewarding “early birds” at all. In fact, those of us who come in early (at 6 or 7 a.m.) are treated like slackers when we head for the door at 3 or 4 p.m., even if we have worked 8 hours without a break. People want the boss to notice that they are present rather than notice what they produce. I find that if I come into the office a couple of hours early I can get twice the amount of work done when no one is around to distract me. Still, it doesn’t matter to my co-workers or my boss. Because when 5 o’clock rolls around, the people who “stay late” are credited with being conscientious, even if they do nothing. Everyone sees them sitting in their offices, looking weary and over-worked, and assumes they must be slaving away on some important project, not simply trying to catch up because they wasted most of the day playing Candy Crush, drinking coffee, gossiping, and wasting time in useless meetings.

    1. As an “early bird” I agree with you. Every place I have worked it is the same thing; I’ll be there a full 2 hours before anyone else – and do a full 2 hours worth of work, without any interruptions – but, the dirty looks and even comments from others, including managers, when I leave right at 5:00 goes to show that what they really care about is face time.

      I just started a new job where the company offers flex time and work-from-home. I’ve asked about both and the answer is: “No, we cannot afford to look like we are slacking off.” Some how or other the weekly status report showing what I’ve done that week just isn’t enough.

      It really isn’t flex time or work-from-home if you don’t let your employees do it.

      When, I landed this job I thought “yea! I can now give up the endless searching for work.” Lord, how wrong I was – I am still looking and hopefully being “fully” employed makes me more employable to other managers.

    2. I agree with you, but the studies say early birds are looked on as productive while night owls are thought of as slackers.

      I wonder if the managers knew how many hours each group was actually working?

  2. I do not think Work Life Balance is coached in most corporations. Coaching is an important tool for everyone trying to bring in a work life balance. Most times performers become victims, since they are busy spending more time at work since they are made to feel they have struck gold by their employers. This is where HR needs to invisibly step in and coach the performers towards making the rise a sustainable one, where the employee does not have to make a choice between family time and bringing in the extra pot of gold.

    1. I think the concept of work-life balance is a new one and it’s not very well taught. Additionally, the needs of an employee with a Stay-at-home spouse who can be there for the plumber and the sick kids and the school conferences are very, very different from another employee who has to do all that alone.

  3. You know how they say “the best way to get something done is to ask a busy person to do it”? I think the ones that are present and are looking busy, or the ones who are sacrificing family time to be at work – they are the ones that are so much more easily approachable for some bosses to take on more work. The ones with flexible schedules, who work from home – they are perhaps seen as ‘slackers’ not wanting to go the extra mile, and not as present or approachable, so they are not always considered for taking on more work. Even though both groups of people might achieve the same amount of work at the end of the day, I think the flexible workers certainly get the short end of the stick. (Disclaimer: I would LOVE to have a flexible schedule and I would LOVE to not be handed the extra work, and I would LOVE to say no more to that extra work, but my job is one that does make me sacrifice my personal time every now & then.)

    1. The funny thing about giving work to a busy person–I find that when I don’t have a lot to do, I don’t get anything “extra” done either. But, if I’ve got huge deadlines and projects hanging over my head, I somehow manage to get everything done plus the extras.

      I wonder what the psychology behind that is?

      1. I call it the “toothpaste effect”. The harder you squeeze the toothpaste at the back end, the faster it squirts out the front. A little pressure makes things happen faster.

    2. You make a really good point about the boss giving projects to the people who are most accessible. In my case, my boss, my peers and I are all in different offices. My boss always made a point to spread around the extra projects that came up. But about a year ago he hired a new person, who works in the boss’s location. Since then she’s gotten the vast majority of new projects, even though she is the least experienced person. As a result, she’s gotten a lot of very high profile projects. When I pointed this out to my boss, he admitted that it is just easier to give stuff to the person sitting in the office next door, rather than trying to call around to find someone else on the team who is available. Since then he’s made a conscious effort to be better, but it’s still not quite equal.

  4. I think the main issue though is with your last point. A good majority of companies when faced with the person who does not do well on a flexible schedule or is not putting out the actual work, will NOT actually punish that person. They will, a la Yahoo, drag the entire company back into the office on a fixed schedule again. In every company I’ve worked for, that had flexible schedules at least part of the time I worked there, that was the knee jerk reaction to the person who couldn’t handle it or was a general slacker anyway and just wasn’t doing the work.

    Companies need to learn to punish the person with the behaviour in order to change that, or dismiss them. It’s like any other issue. People can dress casually, great. Someone comes in with something inappropriate on and, BANG, dress code that’s A: insane for the place and work product and B: micromanaged like crazy.

    In addition to the important step of teaching managers to manage work product as you suggest, we also have to kill the knee jerk reaction that the person who doesn’t succeed at it, means that NOBODY is and it should therefore stop, right now.

    1. Totally agree, but that takes real management skills.

      I got into an argument on FB with a guy who was like, “I own you from 8:00 to 5:00!” Goodness, I’m glad he’s not my boss.

  5. This is a brilliantly written article as it sums up that good management is tied to flexible hours. The most experienced and/or skilled managers I’ve had didn’t care so much about the precise hours I worked or where I did it. The judgment of my success was based on the work I produced. And in these environments I produced the best work because I was able to logically maneuver around life events, such as a doctor’s appointment or having to stay home to let the plumber in, without being a frazzled mess because I just HAD to be in at 9am rather than 10am. I also got the impression these managers were too busy with their own responsibilities as well as confident in the team they’ve built to waste time on something, that in the big picture, is truly insignificant. Alternatively, my poorly skilled managers who weren’t real leaders, relied heavily on what they felt was their strongest skill–knowing how to tell time–rather than the more complicated actual tasks at hand because, despite their elevated title, many actually didn’t know how to do their jobs or sometimes even the jobs of their staff.

  6. My husband works in a weld/fabrication shop and has flex hours. The basic rules are: They must get in before 7AM, put in at least an 8 hour day and can leave whenever. OT unlimited. Saturdays included.

    Obviously they must notify the supervisor for issues like coming in later then 7 or not working an 8 hour day ( doc appints…. and so on)

    He knows what work he has to do daily and most part the next day so he knows how to plan his schedule.

    He loves it. Gets up a little early one day and gets to work at 5:45. Next day weather is a problem…. gets to work at
    6:30. He can stay or leave early as long as 8 hours and work are done.

    Good managment there !

  7. Years ago I was going to grad school and working full time at the same time. This was only possible because I had flex time and the best boss ever.

    On my first week he said to me
    “Here’s your building ID and keys- get your hours in whenever you need to and keep me updated every couple days on your progress. If I ever need a detailed report from you to bring to meetings, I’ll give you at least two days to do that. Just make me look good and on top of things.”

    We both kept our end of the bargain, and it was a great experience working there.

  8. I think in a lot of larger organisations, the typical excuse is “That’s the way it’s always been done”.

    Sometimes they have alternative excuses (“Other people can’t do it and they would be envious”, “It would disrupt meetings”, etc), but the core reason is basically the same.

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