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Archive for November, 2008

Efficiency at what cost?

This morning, I was making lunch, putting dinner in the slow cooker, feeding the monkeys and making a grocery list. I was doing it all at once because I needed to get us out of the house quickly because we were out of coffee. The combination of trying to do too many things and not having my morning cup made me slightly cranky, rather impatient, and not such a great mom. There was no time for play. There was no time for fun. There was only time to keep moving.

This situation reminds me of what’s going on in offices across the country these days. It looks like people are trying to do as much as possible, all the time, while at work. Layoffs, an insecure business environment, and uncertainty about exactly how long this recession will last means that most companies are trying to do more with less, which puts stress on their employees. And just like I had to do without my morning coffee for far too long this morning, many people are working harder than ever while enjoying fewer office perks, smaller bonuses and even reduced salaries.

Just as I’m not as patient at home when I’m trying to do too many things at once, I’ve realized that I’m not as good of a leader and manager when I’m trying to do too many things at work. I don’t have time to just chat with folks and learn about what’s going on in their lives. I forget to make time to inquire about where folks want their careers to go and help train them to accomplish new things. And I’m not as easily reachable when someone wants to talk.

At home, I do have the luxury of deciding not to do something. This morning I should have skipped making dinner. There are other ways to procure food come 6 PM. But at work, I can’t just not make that client call, or attend that presentation. And I shouldn’t. But we all need to remember to carve space into our workdays to pay attention to people, talk to them in focused and non-focused ways, and maintain a fun and playful atmosphere. If we don’t we’ll find ourselves out of the recession having lost our great teams – or having alienated them so much that they jump at the first chance to leave.

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