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spike bullet November 1999 - Workplace Energy Dynamics

Energy Dynamics
Each person affects the overall energy dynamics
Leadership responsibility
The lighter side
Books, Articles and Internet Resources

color bullet Energy Dynamics

One of the principles we support is positive use of "Energy."  Companies are in business to offer products or services that generate a profit.  In order to accomplish those goals, the people who work for a company (or any organization) contribute their talents, skills and energy to the company in exchange for a salary, benefits, etc.

This is an exchange of energy flowing from employees to a company and back to employees in a constant cycle.  Keeping this energy flowing smoothly is what generates higher productivity, higher morale, healthier working environments, happier employees and higher profits.

color bullet Empowering Employees to Succeed

In order to direct employees' energy, the leadership of a company sets certain goals - increasing sales, creating new products, serving customers better, performing more efficiently, etc.

In most companies, the goal-setting process is done as part of the annual budget process or quarterly financial review process. However, many company goals are never shared with the employees who must make them happen. Empowering employees to meet the company’s goals means empowering them to help the company succeed.

Success depends on a company’s willingness to share the results of their efforts with all employees, combined with methods and processes that reward successful performance.

Management’s responsibility is to identify:

  • The company’s goals
  • The desired results
  • The desired behaviors to be rewarded
  • The success / measurement criteria.

In order for employees to act toward meeting company goals, they must:

  • Know what the goals are
  • Know why their efforts are critically important to achieving the company’s goals
  • Know how success (or failure) will be measured
  • Know how to recognize success (or failure)
  • Know what the benefits are � to them, to co-workers and to the company, and
  • Know the consequences for failing to be part of a company-wide effort to meet the company’s goals.

Empowering employees gives them direction and support in achieving the company’s goals. Successful companies reward desired behaviors and empower teamwork in achieving the company’s goals. The primary motivators are positive rewards and incentives, rather than fear of punishment.

color bullet Individual Goals Aligned with Company Goals - Getting Everyone Rowing the Boat in the Same Direction

Imagine � if every person in a rowboat was rowing according to their own personal pace and method � each of them aiming for a different target. The boat might sputter and spin, it might weave back and forth or it might even sink.  When employees work without clear understanding of the company's goals, it is the same as everyone rowing a boat according to their own ideas.  The energy expended by employees without good direction is wasted or misused when this happens. Or, their energy may be expended in ways that are considered to be hostile to  productivity.

When 12 people are rowing a boat in Olympic competition, it skims over the water easily.  When employees row toward a common goal, the power of teamwork is like the Olympic rowboat. Uniting all employees toward the company’s goals is similar to teaching them all to row in the same direction with a unified stroking pattern.

Identifying company’s goals and aiming all employees toward a common point uses the powerful energy of employees with the same power that unified rowing achieves for our Olympic athletes.

The difference between successful companies and unsuccessful companies is comparable to an Olympic rowing team vs. first day novices!

color bullet Employees are a Company’s Greatest Asset or Its Biggest Liability

To increase profits and reduce costs, companies must make better use of their assets and minimize their liabilities.

Employees who know the company’s goals, clearly understand their part in achieving the company’s goals and understand the benefit to them personally, are able to act in ways that allow their energy to enhance the company and their individual job, helping both to achieve more success.

Once employees learn the Company’s Goals, the Desired Results and the Desired Behaviors, they begin to see how they fit into the overall company picture.

The individual employee can then determine how they can increase profits and reduce costs for the company. Support from supervisors and company incentive programs provide additional reinforcement to the employee, leading to further active participation in meeting company goals.

color bullet The Employee Contract - Why Employees Are Hired

Employees are hired to satisfy job description requirements specifying a list of capabilities. A list of tasks to be performed is usually part of the job description.

To achieve company goals, all employees must have a list of Company Goals and Department Goals (Desired Results) along with a set of Behaviors that are expected from them.  One way to do this is through our Productivity Plus process, which helps managers and employees be consciously aware of their responsibilities for increasing profits and reducing costs for the company as a whole.  This alignment helps the direct the energy of managers and employees in a unified fashion toward company goals - getting everyone rowing in the same direction.

Through conscious awareness of the personal benefits for achieving the Desired Results (supported by positive reinforcement of supervisors/managers and enhanced by performance incentives) employees learn to exhibit the Desired Behaviors.

color bullet Employee Satisfaction Survey - Where Are We Now?

Personal productivity and concern for quality are directly related to job satisfaction. Companies with high levels of employee satisfaction report significantly fewer Workers’ Compensation Claims, lower accident rates, less utilization of health benefit systems, low levels of employee turnover, lower levels of absenteeism and tardiness.  These all represent the positive use of employee energy.

Companies with high levels of Workers' Comp claims, high accident rates, high turnover, low morale, hostile environments are all indicators of negative use of employee energy.

In response to growing labor problems, union activity, productivity concerns and changing competition in the marketplace, owners of companies have often turned to employee attitude surveys for guidance in identifying weaknesses. Surveys can be very useful if well-prepared and used regularly (at least quarterly).  One short yet powerful survey is described in the book, First Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman (see article in our August 1999 newsletter). 

After the survey results are compiled, management must be willing to listen to employees and make appropriate changes as needed. Senior management must be 100 percent behind the change process that can result from the surveys. If surveys are done without   feedback to employees or areas needing improvement are not corrected, employees will not be honest in answering subsequent surveys. Even when the survey says that things are going well, management should be working toward improvement. 

In a healthy company environment, employees and management are proud of the survey results and work actively to identify areas for continued improvement.

Involving employees constantly in decision-making helps management stay closer to the energy that will make the companies succeed.  When management becomes isolated from their employees and makes decisions that affect employees daily lives, the forward momentum of a company can sputter and spin. 

Footnote: We use the word "company" to mean any business endeavor.  The goals of government agencies and non-profit organizations are directed toward service rather than profit.  However, they too must find ways to run efficiently and must maintain an adequate revenue stream in order to function. Energy dynamics in government and non-profit groups may easily become unhealthy or hostile because management and employees may not focus on the productivity required in profit-oriented businesses.

color bullet Each Person Affects the Overall Energy Dynamics

Very positive energy forces are released when people feel creative, have the freedom to express their opinions, and have the respect of their management and their peers. Negative energy creates Hostile Workplace situations - including: Violence, Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, Verbal Abuse, Lack of Respect, Loss of Productivity as well as all dysfunctional or addictive work situations.

Your individual contribution to the collective positive energy comes through using your own creativity, communicating well, having respect for others, adapting to changing situations, working with others and enjoying what you do.

Your individual contribution to the collective negative energy comes through withholding your talents, communicating without respect, fighting and arguing with others, resisting changes, creating tension with others and hating what you do.

You as an individual play a significant role in the overall energy force.  Each person can contribute positive energy or negative energy to the collective energy of a company, a family or a community group.

As a manager, executive or leader in your company, you are directly responsible for encouraging positive energy or contributing to negative energy within your company.  How you choose to do this will affect the success of the company, your own career success and the productivity of those you influence.    

color bullet What Constitutes "Positive" Energy?

Think about what makes you happy as a person.  Is it having friends, spending time with your family, creating something that shows your talents, having quiet time, traveling to new sites, laughing, hearing music, feeling joy, seeing something beautiful, spending time in nature?

All of those things can be translated into positive aspects of successful, energetic workplaces.  Some examples of positive energy dynamics:

  1. Spending time with people you care about - your co-workers - on a project that you feel is worthwhile makes everyone feel good.
  2. Creating a new ad campaign, a new logo, a new system, a new product or a new way of serving customers are all expressions of employees who feel empowered in their work.
  3. Spending time quietly contemplating a workplace challenge and having an environment where people can have a few minutes of quiet time contribute to and employee's ability to be stress-free at work.  Some companies do this by having a campus-like setting, having a waterfall in the lobby or providing enough physical space that people can "take a break" when they need it.
  4. Sending employees off to conferences or to local industry/professional group meetings can help provide a different perspective on their job and their sense of individual contribution.
  5. Using humor at work and encouraging people to laugh releases amazingly positive energy that can be harnessed to the benefit of the company.
  6. Playing soft music throughout the company or allowing individual people to have music near them can be powerful for those who resonate to that as a stress reduction technique.
  7. Celebrating success, acknowledging individual contributions and celebrating birthdays or company events contribute to a feeling of community and joy for employees.
  8. Decorating offices with attractive colors, paintings, employee-produced art work, color-coordinated furnishings and other symbols of beauty throughout the company help employees harmonize their energy is positive ways.
  9. Having plants in the company, waterfalls, nature walks or trees around the physical workplace add immeasurable ability to harmonize the company's energy with powerful ability of nature to help us feel balanced. 
  10. Happy employees work harder and more productively.   They recruit others into the company who are also good employees.

Companies that already have healthy, positive energy dynamics must work to keep the positive energy flowing.  There are many ways that a company can be badly influenced so constant vigilance is needed to protect healthy environments so they do not become contaminated. A single new executive with negative personality traits or who is verbally abusive can do immeasurable damage to a company very quickly.  Outside influences brought into the company can quickly do damage if management is not paying attention to the overall health and well-being of their company.

Positive energy to a company is like food, water and love to humans.  Without it, a company cannot survive for the long-term just a person cannot survive without basic nourishment.

color bullet What Constitutes "Negative" Energy?

Think about what makes you unhappy as a person.  Is it not having friends, feeling the clash of infighting, feeling like you cannot express yourself, too much noise around you, feeling trapped, feeling like you are being watched, being pressured to meet unrealistic deadlines, feeling like your work is monitored all the time, being constantly criticized, not having the freedom to move about the company; feeling tired, sad or angry most of the time; feeling like nobody cares about you, seeing others harassed or treated poorly, being bored by the same old routine that never changes, being afraid of being fired or disciplined?

All of those things can be translated into negative aspects of hostile environment.  Some examples of negative energy dynamics:

  1. People who are isolated from others or who feel a lack of common purpose with their co-workers cannot help a company.  Their energy is devoted to shielding themselves rather than contributing to the overall good of the company.
  2. Constant arguing, fighting, bickering or verbal abuse is extremely hard on the people directly involved as well as their co-workers who observe such behavior.  Employees who spend their energy fighting or protecting themselves from abuse cannot contribute their energy since it is held in or expressed in violent outbursts rather than as productivity for the company.
  3. Employees who are not allowed to express their creativity turn their frustration inward, withhold their creative energy or turn their energy into destructive endeavors - often unconsciously.  They may sabotage a project, complain all the time, delay their work so that others suffer, lash out at others when provoked or simply don't help when their talents might be useful.  Their energy becomes destructive rather than productive for the company.
  4. People who feel trapped or spied upon can sabotage their workplace by challenging management's authority and creating situations that look like they are following company directives but are really not.  Their energy is wasted on the wrong things.
  5. Blaming others, gossiping about others, telling lies and withholding the truth from co-workers are all ways that people respond when faced with impossible situations or deadlines.  Their energy is devoted to survival or destruction not productivity.
  6. Employees who are confused about their responsibilities, the company's goals, their department's goals or the worth of their individual contribution waste their energy uselessly. Remember the row boat example.
  7. Fear of any type is a major waste of individual energy and therefore, contributes greatly to loss of energy that could be used to help a company.
  8. Typical fears include: fear of being judged unfairly, fear that there is not enough time or resources to do the job, fear of criticism, fear of physical or verbal abuse, fear of punishment, fear of political or career damage, fear of sudden change, fear of authority, fear of being treated unfairly and fear of not having control over a situation.  All of these fears contribute to negative energy in a company. Fear contains great amounts of wasted energy that could be used in productive ways if the company is healthier.
  9. Employees who are unhappy may grumble to their friends and family, or they may do significant damage by "leaking" confidential information on Internet chat rooms or anonymous posting that can be send around the world within hours.

Allowing negative people to remain in an otherwise healthy environment is like putting a rotten apple in a barrel of good apples.  In very short order, the entire barrel is destroyed.  Allowing a single negative person to do that type of damage is very destructive for a healthy company.  In that situation, management must remove the negative person as well as support the remaining healthy people to allow the damage to heal.

Companies that have high turnover, harassment or hostile workplace issues, abusive or fearful employees, lots of sick time used, many workers' comp claims and other types of unhealthy energy face major challenges in turning the corporate culture around.  This requires extreme measures over many years if it is entrenched.  We believe many such companies or organizations are beyond hope and cannot be fixed.  Eventually, the company or organization will cease to exist, broken apart by the destruction created by its negative energy.

color bullet Leadership Responsibility

Some suggestions for using this information in your workplace.

  1. Understand your company's goals and set your departmental goals in alignment with the company's overall goals.  This should be a regular top-down exercise (at least quarterly) and is the core of our Productivity Plus process.
  2. Make sure all of the people within your influence understand how their job fits within the department/company goals.
  3. Guide employees to keep their energy focused in the right direction constantly.
  4. Be clear about your expectations of job performance and listen to employees' views about how they can best direct their energy to meeting the department/company goals.
  5. Take some time to think about the energy dynamics in your company and your role is promoting positive energy or contributing to negative energy.
  6. Work with your management team to recognize the positive and negative energy dynamics in your company and take appropriate action to keep your company healthy. 
  7. Learn how to monitor your own behavior and attitude.  Work to maintain as much positive energy yourself as possible. Learn to catch yourself before you contribute negative energy. 
  8. Become a role model for those you influence, demonstrating how positive energy can be used to benefit your own life and those around you.   
  9. Notice if there are some people who are more positive than others.  Help them continue to be positive and ask their help in changing any negative attitudes or behaviors they encounter.
  10. If you have negative people in your area of influence, help them learn more positive actions or attitudes.  If they cannot contribute in a positive way after some re-training, get them out of your company as quickly as possible before they do serious damage.
  11. Learn more about the personalities of people you work with, and their positive and negative traits.  Encourage their positive traits and help them stay away from their negative traits. 
  12. Learn about employees' fears and find ways to overcome them. 
  13. Listen to your employees and listen beyond their words to what they really think and feel. 
  14. Create a safe environment where employees can tell you the truth about their perceptions.
  15. Set up regular monitoring methods and pay attention to the results. Be vigilant and diligent in monitoring the health of the energy dynamics in your department and your company.
  16. Promote positive energy activities and take corrective action when negativity occurs. 

Some additional comments and suggestions from one of our readers:

I think when faced with a bad apple that management only needs to try and do one thing.

  1. First set up a meeting with the "Bad Apple", and set the stage by telling the employee of their new insight to make the work environment better for everyone (including the employee in question). 
  2. Then simply ask the employee if he/she can make any comments in how the management can improve the working relation between he/she and management. 
  3. By doing this you may be able to get at the root of the problem and work on the situation, but this will be limited to how good a communicator the management personnel is. 
  4. Then, if in fair time the "Bad Apple" can't mend his/her ways, and they have become a burden rather than an asset to the department, then the employer must consider termination. 

"Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after." Anne Morrow Lindberg

Thanks again,
Craig Cagle

smiley graphic The Lighter Side - Organization Dead Horses

Dakota tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.   However, in our organizations, we often try many other strategies, such as:

  1. Change riders.
  2. Buy a stronger whip.
  3. Fall back on: "this is the way we've always ridden."
  4. Appoint a committee to study the horse.
  5. Arrange a visit to other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
  6. Increase the standards for riding dead horses.
  7. Select a group to revive the dead horse.
  8. Develop a training session to improve riding skills.
  9. Compare the state of dead horses in today's environment.
  10. Change the requirements so that the horse no longer meets the standard of dead.
  11. Hire an external consultant to show how a dead horse can be ridden.
  12. Harness several dead horses together to improve speed.
  13. Increase funding to improve the horse's performance.
  14. Declare that no horse is too dead to beat.
  15. Do a study to see if outsourcing will reduce the cost of riding a dead horse.
  16. Buy a computer program to enhance dead horse performance.
  17. Declare a dead horse more cost effective than a live one.
  18. Form a workgroup to propose uses for a dead horse.
  19. Change performance requirements for the horse.
  20. Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position.

Author: Anonymous.  This is a joke circulating on the Internet.  If anyone knows the correct source or author, please let us know.

We offer this bit of humor to show how misunderstanding the company's goals (letting the horse die) and lack of appropriate leadership direction can lead to massive waste of energy.

book graphic Books   -  Disclosure: We get a small commission for purchases made via links to Amazon.

  • Work Like Your Dog: 50 Ways to Work Less, Play More & Earn More by Matt Weinstein and Luke Barber Villard Books; (June 2002) ISBN: 0812991990

  • First Break All the Rules, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, Simon & Schuster; (May 1999)ISBN: 0684852861
  • Teamwork books -
  • Creative Relaxation -
  • Zapp: The Lightning of Empowerment. William Byham and Jeff Cox, Fawcett Books; Revised edition (February 1998) ISBN: 0449002829 
  • Games Bosses Play (36 Career Busters Your Supervisor May be Firing Your Way and How You can Defend Yourself). Russell Wild.  Contemporary Books, 4255 West Touhy Avenue, Chicago, IL 60646-1975.  1997 ISBN 0-8092-3085-2
  • The Corporate Mystic: A Guidebook For Visionaries With Their Feet on the Ground.  1996 Gay Hendricks and Kate Ludeman, Bantam Books, New York  ISBN 0-553-37494-X
  • The Executive Mystic: Psychic Power Tools for Success.  1998. Barrie Dolnick HarperBusiness, New York. ISBN 0-88730-903-8
  • Speaking Your Mind in 101 Difficult Situations. Don Gabor, Simon & Schuster, New York. 1994 ISBN 0-671-79505-8

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