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Crucial Accountability QA

Dealing with New Job Expectations

Dear Crucial Skills,
I have been doing a job for 14 years, making improvements and reevaluating each year to make it more efficient and produce better results. The two teams I have been dealing with have always expressed satisfaction with my work. We now have a different management team with a different philosophy; they want me to do my job in less than half the time, assisting 50% more clients than I had previously. They want me to just “get the job done” and are not concerned about quality. How do I deal with this without sacrificing personal integrity?

Regards,
Frustrated with Management

Dear Frustrated,
When managers make this kind of demand, it feels like a kick in the guts. It’s as if the new management team is discrediting your experience and the improvements you’ve worked so hard to achieve. You’ve put a lot of yourself into your job, so it’s hard not to take it personally. And, when they increase your workload as much as they have, it feels as if they are devaluing the job itself—“Since your job isn’t worth doing at all, it’s certainly not worth doing well.”

And yet, taking this demand personally would be a mistake. It’s very unlikely the new management team was thinking about you and your personal performance when they made this change in priorities. I’ll suggest a few, more dispassionate, ways to respond.

Explore Others’ Paths. Begin by seeking to understand the facts and logic behind the new direction. Hold off on evaluating the feasibility of the specific changes until you understand why the new management team believes new priorities are needed.

For example, I worked with a management team that discovered they could double their sales and triple their profits if they switched from producing top-quality external siding to lower-quality interior siding. Employees felt lousy about producing lower-quality material, until they understood it was what the marketplace wanted. The lower-quality material would be used inside walls, where its flaws would be hidden. In this case the change was a success. The operation expanded, and everyone benefited.

Reinvent the Process. Try to reinvent how you manage this new volume of clients. Tweaking the existing process probably won’t be enough. It will likely require a disruptive innovation. For example, instead of increasing the speed with which you work with clients over the phone, maybe the solution is to ditch the phone, and use a website where clients solve their own problems.

Learn from Positive Deviants. A positive deviant is a person who faces the same challenges as everyone else, but has somehow achieved breakthrough results. Check to see if there are any of your peers who are meeting the new numbers without sacrificing essential quality elements. If there are any, go and observe them. Ask them to observe you as well. You may discover insights that will radically change your results.

I saw this a few years ago when I was working with a team that transcribed physician’s notes. The department had just introduced voice-recognition software, but hadn’t seen the productivity increases they’d expected. The team looked for positive deviants, and discovered three members of their team who had become four times more productive than the rest—but no one knew why. They observed each other, and quickly figured it out. These exceptional three had independently programmed Microsoft shortcuts that sped up their work. Once they shared these shortcuts with the team, everyone’s productivity quadrupled.

Track a Balanced Scorecard of Outcomes. My guess is that you and the management team are focused on somewhat different outcomes. They are looking at volume and margins, while you are looking at quality and complaints. The mistake would be to track one set of outcomes without also tracking the others. You’ll want to track both the desired outcomes and the potential risks.

Notice that I’m emphasizing tracking and measuring. Verbal warnings about potential risks never carry as much weight as actual data. Maybe the results will confirm your warnings, or maybe they will confirm the management team’s hopes. Or maybe the data will land in the middle, and everyone will see the need for more work. Remember, it’s not about winning or losing an argument; it’s about getting facts and data on the table, where they can serve as common ground.

Yeah But . . . What if these tips don’t work? What if, after giving it your best shot, you conclude that the new management team doesn’t value the work you do? If this is the case, I believe you have three options.

1. Stay in your current job, but feel as if you are sacrificing your integrity. This won’t work—at least, not in the long run. You will hate your job, and your feelings will show on your face and in your actions.
2. Change to a job they do value.
3. Or find another organization that values the kind of work you want to do.

Good luck,

David

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David Maxfield

David Maxfield is a New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, and leading social scientist for organizational change. For thirty years, David has delivered engaging keynotes at prestigious venues including Stanford and Georgetown Universities. David’s work has been translated into twenty-eight languages, is available in thirty-six countries, and has generated results for three hundred of the Fortune 500.
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4 thoughts on “Dealing with New Job Expectations”

  1. Dear Frustrated,
    It sounds to me that management saw what a good job you have done in the past new or not, Otherwise they would give you less customers not more. The story I would be telling myself is I am blessed with a new challenge of doubling my load and increasing efficiencies even more. And very glad they are not removing workload from my team.
    Good Job by the way sounds like you are on top of you game.

  2. David,

    As usually, you (and your colleagues) continue to provide sound advice by broadening the scope/view of a situation and seeing if from multiple perspectives.

    You definitely do not subscribe to a “victim” mentality.

    Thanks.

  3. David, I like your answer and would like to add a few points. Before I start, I must compliment “Frustrated” for the innovations she introduced over the years. It sounds like she has helped bring her company this far and has the opportunity to be part of their new direction.
    Firstly, it may help to discuss the new deal with others, perhaps with an analyst. if the company has an analyst it may help to seek input and not feel frustrated and entirely alone with the challenge to do twice as much. Two eyes are better than one and an analyst is trained to objectively review procedures and recommend a brand new approach to help you to meet the new goals. Also, it the analyst can’t find ways to do more, you will have an ally.
    Secondly, “quality” is not an iron-clad constant. Re-define what quality means in the new management situation. For example you may have valued neat stacks of resolved customer cases, while they want to serve twice as many customers and may not care for detailed documentation. Your approach is valid and so is theirs. Different perspectives about quality. They may be concerned about a backlog of unresolved cases and need your help to have twice as many completed. Find out what their concerns are. Become part of that new mission, and still feel proud about what you did under the old.
    Finally, after doing the same job for 14 years, it is not unusual to feel frustrated by the call to produce twice as much. I understand. You care, and you have constantly made improvements over the years. Another way to think of it is like completely remodeling your old kitchen after constantly cleaning, mopping and repainting for 14 years. It looks pretty good now, but the prospect of an up-to-date and modernized one may help you do even better. . Good Luck.
    Karen Sinclair, Business and Social Analyst
    http://www.karenswall.com

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