Creating A Sense Of Urgency In The Workplace

January 26, 2013 — 1 Comment

Celebrating Victories

12 hour days are tough.  We’ve all had them.  Most of us have had to do more than that even.  But how long can you stay productive with this kind of schedule before you begin to sacrifice other parts of your life?  What’s the real cost here?  Is it worth it?

This week I noticed something interesting at the company I’m currently working with.  They have a team of people that have a minimum amount of hours they have to work (50 hours per week).  This doesn’t seem horrible.  However, I challenge the concept here, because of a conversation I had with one of their team members.

We’ll call him Joe.  I asked Joe how things were going and he seemed stressed.  He said, I have so much work here that I could work 80 hours and not be done.  I feel exhausted.  I asked him what time he usually comes in.  He said, I’ve been coming in at 6:00am sharp for over a year.  Knowing that Joe had a solid 45 minute commute, I asked what time do you usually get up?  He said 4:30am.

By my calculations, Joe is spending close to 60 hours per week doing work related stuff (including commute).  That leaves little time for his wife of one year and his newborn child.

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This conversation was happening just after Joe had come back from a smoke break (one of many that day).  Don’t get me wrong, Joe is a hard worker.  Joe is respected among his co-workers and is counted on by many.  He’s also been at the same job in the same position for over 10 years.

Here’s the problem I have with all of this.  Joe gets paid by the hour.  Yet he is taking numerous smoke breaks, he’s leisurely talking with me and he spends more than enough time talking with his co-workers about non-work related topics.  Is this his fault?  I don’t think so.

The issue here is that because of the minimum hours, the heavy work load and paid by the hour mentality, Joe has lost his sense of urgency.  If Joe was the only case of this, maybe you could say Joe was the problem.  However, as I speak with the team as a whole, everyone is infected.

So what can be done?

Here’s what I’ve seen work instead:

1.) Switch to salary with performance bonuses:

Give people a goal to shoot for and a life to hope for.  Get them pushing in the same direction and stop worrying about the clock.

2.) Do not set minimum hour requirements:

Of course they have to be there 8-5, but the focus should be on quality and again on performance (individual & team).  Personally, I don’t care if they work 35 hours per week, as long as that’s setup ahead of time and they are setting records and adding value to the organization.

3.) Give them a break:

Take them out of their work environment every once in a while.  Make sure they are valued.

4.) Get rid of non-performers & only hire rock stars:

Nuff said.

5.) Create a culture of high performance:

Celebrate victories with them.  Make sure they know when the team wins.  Make sure they know that everyone on that team is at the top of their game; that this situation is special and worth fighting for.

These are not new concepts, but they challenge the norm in many cases.  I do realize that middle managers can’t always make these kinds of decisions; often times they are determined at a much higher level.  However, they are worth talking about and going to bat for, no matter what level you are at!

Question:  Have you ever been burned out?  How did you get your mojo back?



  • Yes I have!

    Rest. Exercise. Better diet / supplements. That is my formula. Not much to it I guess 🙂