4 ways managers remove joy and meaning from your work

Facilitating a Leader-as-Coach workshop, one of the managers asked,

What things might I be doing that are making people miserable and I am not aware?”

What an interesting question! After some laughter, I shared these four ideas below.

4 ways managers remove joy and meaning from your work

Dismiss your idea.
  • “That is a bad idea and will not work.” or “That is an idiotic idea.” or “Obviously you don’t know what you are talking about.” or “I heard you, what I think we should do is (some tweaked version of your idea) that is the best course.” etc…
  • A manager dismissing your idea is a quick way to kill any joy and meaning in your work.
Making you and others doubt the work you do is important.
  • “It is nice that you decided to do that, but it is not important to the project.” or “We decided to place you on the low-risk part because it is least important.” or “I know I agreed at the meeting that your work is needed, but after that, I decided that it is not necessary.”
  • All a mixture of words used to make managers feel empowered and you feel drained of any motivation.
Assign you tasks for which you are overqualified.
  • I know there are times when people have to do work that they are overqualified to do, and as a manager, acknowledge this and explain why you are asking them to do the work. BUT be sure that it is not because you are a thoughtless jerk.
  • For example…on a project team of skilled Engineers and Biologists, the Project Manager handed a handwritten note with his scribbles all over it to the Ph.D. Toxicologist and said, “Can you type up these notes I have written.” She questioned him, “Can you put these in track changes like we agreed at the meeting? Then I can look over and change what needs to be modified for this project.” He responded, “No, I am too busy, and you can do this.” That is being a thoughtless jerk; stop it. You are draining any joy and desire to be helpful from work. 
Keep people from assuming full ownership of their work.
  • This happens when you are making progress in getting meaningful work done! Then you are told to stop, or the priorities change, and something that you worked hard on and were told is a top priority disappears. With no more of an update, then stop what you are doing.
  • “Yes, you did work hard on that, and now that project is no longer important, someone else will finish the project.” or “As you are working on that project, I need to see and know what you are doing that way the ownership is not solely on you.” 
  • We all need to understand and feel progress in our work. 

*Teresa Amabile – The Progress Principle 

Of the 4 ways managers remove joy and meaning from your work, they usually happen in small, almost unperceivable ways; these little cuts add up.

Be thoughtful about the four areas above, and let your manager or others know how they remove joy and meaning from your work.