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The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (And Their Employees) Hardcover – August 17, 2007
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Some Questions for Patrick Lencioni
Q: Why did you decide to write this book?
A: As a kid, I watched my dad trudge off to work each day and became somewhat obsessed with the notion of job misery. Somewhere along the line, I came to the frightening realization that people spend so much time at work yet so many of them were unfulfilled and frustrated in their jobs. As I got older, I came to another realization--that job misery was having a devastating impact on individuals, and on society at large. It seemed to me that understanding the cause of the problem, and finding a solution for it, was a worthy focus for my career.
Q: What exactly is a miserable job?
A:A miserable job is not the same as a bad one. A bad job lies in the eye of the beholder. One persons dream job might be another persons nightmare. But a miserable job is universal. It is one that makes a person cynical and frustrated and demoralized when they go home at night. It drains them of their energy, their enthusiasm and their self-esteem. Miserable jobs can be found in every industry and at every level. Professional athletes, CEOs and actors can be--and often are-- as miserable as ditch diggers, janitors and fast food workers.
Q: How prevalent is job misery?
A: Attend any kind of social gathering, anywhere in the country, and talk about work. The stories and anecdotal evidence confirming job misery are overwhelming. Misery spans all income levels, ages and geography. A recent Gallup poll found that 77% of people hate their jobs. Gallup also contends that this ailing workforce is costing employers more than $350 billion dollars in lost productivity.
Q: What is the root cause of job misery?
A: The primary source of job misery and the potential cure for that misery resides in the hands of one individual--the direct manager. There are countless studies confirming this statement, including both Gallup and The Blanchard Companies. Both organizations have found that an employees relationship with their direct manager is the most important determinant to employee satisfaction (over pay, benefits, perks, work-life balance etc).
Even employees who are well paid, do interesting work and have great autonomy, cannot feel fulfilled in a job if their managers are not providing them with what they need on a daily or weekly basis.
Q: What are the three signs?
The first is anonymity, which is the feeling that employees get when they realize that their manager has little interest in them a human being and that they know little about their lives, their aspirations and their interests.
The second sign is irrelevance, which takes root when employees cannot see how their job makes a difference in the lives of others. Every employee needs to know that the work they do impacts someones life--a customer, a co-worker, even a supervisor--in one way or another.
The third sign is something I call "immeasurement," which is the inability of employees to assess for themselves their contribution or success. Employees who have no means of measuring how well they are doing on a given day or in a given week, must rely on the subjective opinions of others, usually their managers, to gauge their progress or contribution.
Q: Why dont managers do these things?
A: As simple as the three signs are, the fact remains that few managers take a genuine interest in their people, remind them of the impact that their work has on others, and help them establish creative ways to measure and assess their performance.
There are a number of reasons. First, many managers think they are too busy. Of course, the real problem is that most of those managers see themselves primarily as individual contributors who happen to have direct reports. They fail to realize that the most important part of their jobs is providing their people with what they need to be productive and fulfilled (a.k.a. not miserable) in their jobs.
The second reason that managers dont provide their employees with the three things they need is that they simply forget what is was like when they were a little lower on the food chain. They somehow forget how important it was to them when a supervisor took an interest in them, talked to them about why their work really mattered and gave them a means for evaluating their progress.
Finally, many managers dont do this because they are embarrassed or afraid to try. They fear that their employees will see them as being disingenuous or manipulative, or that by taking an interest in their personal lives they will be stepping into inappropriate territory. Its almost as though they fail to understand the difference between the interview process (no personal questions allowed!) and the actual work experience (treat people like a full human being).
Q: What can a miserable employee do to improve his or her situation?
A: The first thing they can do is assess whether their manager is interested in and capable of addressing the three things that are required. And they have to realize that most managers really do want to improve, in spite of the fact that they may seem disinterested.
The second thing miserable employees need to do is help their managers understand what it is they need. If they have a strong relationship with their manager, they can come right out and say it ("You know, it would mean a lot to me if you knew more about who I am and what makes me tick." or, "Can you sit down and help me understand why this work Im doing makes a difference to someone?").
Finally, employees would do well for themselves if they turned the tables and started doing for their managers what they want for themselves. For instance, employees who take a greater interest in the life of their managers are bound to infect them with the same kind of human interest. Similarly, employees who take the time to tell their managers (in a non suck-up kind of way) about the impact they have on their job satisfaction, will likely inspire them to respond in kind.
However, if an employee comes to the conclusion that his or her manager is indeed completely disinterested in helping them find fulfillment in their work, it may well be time to start looking for a new job.
Q: Why do so many professional athletes and entertainers seem miserable in their jobs?
A: In spite of the money they make and the attention they receive from fans and the media, many athletes and entertainers experience one or all of the three signs of a miserable job.
Most professional athletes feel anonymous in their jobs because their coaches and managers dedicate little, if any, time or energy getting to know them personally. Ive had coaches tell me "Hey, these guys are professionals and this is a business. They dont need anything special from me." Keep in mind that they are referring to young men in their early twenties who are living on their own for the first time and feel surprisingly alone--even with all the fan attention.
Entertainers are in similar situations, but for them, it is often relevance that suffers. Many actors cannot reconcile their celebrity and wealth with the fact that they see their work as being somewhat unimportant, in terms of impacting the lives of others. Perhaps thats why so many of them get involved in charitable causes or politics--it gives them a sense of purpose.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
More About the Author
Lencioni is the author of ten business books with over three million copies sold worldwide. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Bloomberg Businessweek, and USA Today.
Prior to founding The Table Group, Lencioni served on the executive team at Sybase, Inc. He started his career at Bain & Company and later worked at Oracle Corporation.
Lencioni lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and their four sons.
To learn more about Patrick and The Table Group, please visit www.tablegroup.com.
Top Customer Reviews
His book will get your management juices going again. It's a five-star, must-read, very, very important book. (I've just moved it onto my Top 10 books of all time list--it's that good.)
In story fashion, Lencioni helps us discover why so many CEOs, senior leaders, managers and employees are miserable at work--and what to do about it. His diagnosis is simple, yet profound. The story gives practical solutions and the book concludes with a this-makes-sense discussion of next steps and case studies. Gratefully, he's also posted "miserable" resources on his website, including the anti-misery worksheet for managers.
In this book, Lencioni shares what he then learned during his journey of discovery.
As is his custom, he uses the business fable genre to introduce and develop his insights. His narrative has a cast of characters, a plot, crisp dialog, various crises and conflicts, and eventually a plausible climax. Here's the situation as the narrative begins. Brian Bailey is the CEO of JMJ Fitness Machines. After fifteen years under his leadership, JMJ has become the number three, at times two "player" in its industry. "With no debt, a well-respected brand, and plenty of cash in the bank, there was no reason to suspect that the privately held company was in danger. And then one day it happened"....Read more ›
I read the Wall Street Journal review of his book and had to say that I thought it was an unfair review. Although I don't know the reviewer, I do wonder whether the reviewer has ever managed people or been in a situation similar to that of Brian (the main character in the story).
Traditional management theory is hard to really apply on a day-to-day basis; I feel that much of it is written for huge companies--not small ones. I thought that this book was fairly easy to apply for the small business owner because it is based on a small pizza place. The author does a very nice job of developing the characters...one can almost hear the voices of the employees as they all seem to personify others that we've all worked with: the eager beaver, the dissenter, the high-maintenance person, etc. This made the book practical for me as I envisioned the character's problems and attempted solutions.
I also felt that the author's voice was one of reality and practicality--not ivory tower idealism. He does a good job of saying things like (and I'm paraphrasing) "I know this sounds soft" or "this may sound hokey" to confirm those very thoughts.Read more ›
Fortunately, for Lencioni and for us, he has found his calling and is fulfilling his purpose by sharing his observations about what it takes to make the work experience something to look forward to, something meaningful.
In his sixth book, "The Three Signs of a Miserable Job," Lencioni identifies the three causes of job misery - irrelevance, immeasurement, and anonymity - and provides an antidote for each. "Three signs" utilizes a fable to drive home each of the "three signs" and the "cure."
Protagonist Brian Bailey loves being a manager, but he has just retired and is bored. After several visits to a local restaurant where he gets poor service and the employees appear to be disinterested in their jobs, Bailey buys into it. He then sets about implementing a "get well" program to turn around the restaurant by changing the employee's attitude toward their jobs.
Lencioni repeats the fundamentals of his "ending misery" model with a second application to a larger company when Bailey returns as CEO of a company in the industry he left.
The principles Lencioni hammers-on will resonate with all who work. He points out that job misery is widespread (a recent PEW study estimates 75%).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The author presents the book in the form of a story with fictional characters, allowing for an interesting read. Read morePublished 21 days ago by D. Davis
This book really hit home on two levels. It helped me understand the misery I feel in my job and how to make sure my people feel engaged and fulfilled in their jobs.Published 26 days ago by Cary and Debi Teeple
This is a must read for anyone trying to understand why your boss "doesn't get it"
This is a must read for any boss that can't understand why he's failing
As with all Lencioni's books they are engaging, fun to read and hard to put down. The three concepts in this book are foundational to being a great leader and reading this book... Read morePublished 2 months ago by John Armstrong
A engaging book, great insight ... Simplifying leadership Essenes.Published 2 months ago by Omar Hashem
Unless you're serious about change! An easy to read story that moved along nicely! My HR dept (3 of us) are reading about 30 pages/week and enjoying it very much! Read morePublished 3 months ago by Learnerjsg