Leaders Need to Give Power Back to Their People

on February 2, 2022
Resources All Unlocking Talent

It’s the start of 2022, and we’re still living through a global pandemic. One impact of this in the business world has been a steady stream of job resignations. In fact, CNBC tells us that we’ve just seen the highest level of unemployment claims since October 2021. This single piece of data tells us – in no uncertain terms – that people are worn out and worn down. They’re unwilling to compromise when it comes to feeling a personal connection to their work, and they’re demanding to be acknowledged, respected, and rewarded for their time, energy, and efforts. This isn’t just my opinion – Fast Company reports that 74% of employees feel they deserve more recognition. That’s a lot of dissatisfied people.

To me, these employees seem well within their right to demand more recognition. However, leaders seem stumped on how to develop solutions that give people what they want. Without delivering on employees’ demands, there’s no way to retain them. But what if the solution doesn’t lie just in the hands of leaders? What if people need to stop waiting to receive what they want and instead start changing their own experience, with or without permission?

That’s right. Not everything has to start as an organizational initiative or a renewed effort designed to increase employee retention.

I believe people have a tremendous ability to create greater experiences for themselves – if they can fully appreciate the fact that they have the freedom to do just that.

Job Crafting: The Tactic We’ve Been Overlooking

Wikipedia defines the term “job crafting” as:

An individually driven work design process which refers to self-initiated, proactive strategies to change the characteristics of one’s job to better align the job with personal needs, goals, and skills.

This theory was developed by psychologists Jane Dutton and Amy Wrzesniewski in 2001 after studying groups of hospital cleaners. They observed that while all the cleaners had the same job, some of them crafted it differently. Wrzesniewski and Dutton believe people can use job crafting to “make meaningful and lasting changes in your job,” which can help people feel more in control at work, more engaged, and happier, too. I don’t think there’s ever been a greater need for job crafting to become the norm. It’s possibly the most effective, most powerful – not to mention the simplest – way to help people find greater satisfaction at work.

While job crafting is something that the individual worker must do, leaders also play an important role in the process. In the last book I wrote with my colleague Rich Berens, we covered this topic in a chapter about trust. These four sentences, written a couple years ago, are incredibly relevant to the current state of the workplace.

… Leaders must create a culture that focuses on both framework and freedom. They must create a framework that clearly outlines the non-negotiables that ensure consistency and safety in the products and services they deliver. At the same time, they must also create a sense of freedom. Doing this allows people to be their best selves, use their judgment to create extraordinary touchpoints, resolve unplanned issues that arise, and look for new ways of doing things in a better and faster way.

People tend to think that most things are out of their control. That’s why it’s imperative for leaders to kick-start the discussion about framework and freedom. Employees need to know that they actually have more power than they realize and that they don’t need to sit idly by, waiting for someone else to tell them how to find greater satisfaction at work.

People have the power to make their own changes right now.

Becoming the Architect of Your Own Experience

Right now, it seems that everyone wants to get a job somewhere else. But what if the right job doesn’t exist? What if what you’re waiting for will never come?

While job crafting for your employees is impossible, leaders can still have a lot of influence over the creation of better working environments. You must remind people that they’re the creators of their own experiences – and you fully support them. Express that you give them permission to align their jobs with their own sense of “why.”

As for employees: Please know that you don’t need to just go through the motions. Ask yourself, “What do I control? How can I make small changes to align my job with my interests and passions?” You might be surprised at the changes you can start implementing to create the job that you actually want, right now, where you already are.

More deeply rooted thinking

Employee Engagement
Employee Engagement

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