7 modern workplace myths

Overworked Employee Picture courtesy Flickr user hiyori13

COMMENTARY: How did we ever get by without social media reminding us how miserable we are at work? Every time CareerBuilder burps out an employee survey, a thousand blogs and tweets tell us how overworked and under-appreciated we are.

And you can thank Gallup for the latest management fad -- employee engagement. Now, we all know we're not as enthusiastic about our jobs as we should be, either.

Well, here's a curve ball for you. I don't disagree with any of it. For all I know, a high percentage of employees are underpaid, working their tails off, doing the job of two or more people, under-resourced, under-informed and, as a result, hate their jobs.

So what's my beef? Just this: It's been that way forever. There's nothing new here. Maybe it's just me, but from my first summer job as a kid through 23 years in the high-tech industry and eight more as a management consultant, I'm pretty sure I've never seen a workplace where all that wasn't true to some extent.

It's just that we now have the means to ensure that every single one of us is aware of just how miserable we are 24x7 on Yahoo, Google, Twitter and Facebook.

Here are my top 7 modern workplace myths. Not that there isn't some truth to some of them. It's just that they've always been the case, and more in some companies than in others. That will never change. It's all tilting at windmills. Really.

Myth #1: Employees are overworked

From 1980 to 2003, I'm pretty sure I averaged 60 hours a week. In 1991 my CEO signed a bunch of new requisitions for my group. When he changed his mind two weeks later, I nearly had a nervous breakdown. In 1995, I had two different managers literally crying in my office because they were overworked and needed more resources. There's nothing new here.

Myth #2: We need more communication

Sure, communication is as important to business success and organizational effectiveness as it used to be. There's just too much of it. Workplace communication has so jumped the shark. The old problem of protecting domains by limiting the flow of information has morphed into a new problem of hyper-collaboration where everybody's included in everything. Communication overload has reached epidemic proportions and it's killing precious productivity and effectiveness.

Myth #3: Workers are under-engaged

What does that even mean? I guess Gallup has turned it into a big buzzword, but I've been involved in conducting employee surveys for decades. It's the same old thing. Employees are happier (aka, more engaged) about their jobs at some companies than others. Some CEOs are psychopaths who create cultures where employees live in fear, others run their companies like love fests and there's everything in between. It's just a new buzzword.

Myth #4: Managers need to do more

They need to communicate better, listen harder, manage up more effectively, yada yada. Did anyone ever stop to think that maybe managers are the most overworked of all employees because they're the ones who are salaried, which just means they get to work 60 hour weeks on 40 hours pay? That's what I did all those years. Yeah, managers need to do more. Right.

Myth #5: Your job sucks

For one thing it's work, not happy hour. Also it's a free country. You get to decide what you want to do for a living and where you work. Isn't that enough? Sure, the economy sucks. So if you've got a crappy job or a boss who's a jerk, you're sort of stuck for a while. Sometimes it's worse than others, but the economy is cyclical and it's been that way forever. Besides, if you think your company is hell, your boss is the devil, and your coworkers are political, backstabbing creeps, there's a fair chance that it's you. Nobody wants to believe they're the problem.

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Myth #6: There's a discrimination problem

Obviously, there are isolated incidents of every type imaginable. But these days we have employment laws, protected classes and political correctness. Managers are trained in diversity, executives are coached on sensitivity, and there are plenty of lawyers around to take the case if and when they screw up. The majority of discrimination that's going on in the workplace is the reverse kind.

Myth #7: Corporations are not people

I don't know how to break this to everyone, but if all the people disappeared, so would all the companies. Organizations, executives, managers, employees, shareholders, customers, vendors -- everything about companies from top to bottom -- are all people. Corporations have bylaws, articles of incorporation, stock plans, SEC documents, all sorts of legal documents, all written by and for people. The furniture and computer you use, the facility you work in, all made by people at other companies.

That's my take; now it's your turn to vent.

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