Is Your Job Driving You Nuts?

9th May 2013

Organisational contradictions at work can drive anybody nuts:
Take risks, but don’t fail
Tell your manager the truth, but don’t bring them problems
Help customers but spend less time with them

Recognising and alleviating these daily conundrums can be the key to maintaining your sanity is a stressful environment.

In economics, a theory exists called the “production possibilities frontier” which outlines the impossibility of producing more of one good without sacrificing on the output of another. The transference of resources makes it impossible to achieve both. In business, this translates to an employee having a set period of time in which he or she can work on their project or assist their peers. One of these tasks must be paused in order for the employee to act upon the other, which makes certain combinations of goals unattainable.

Managers want to maximise employee output, so giving them an unattainable goal might be irrational and impossible. Harvard Business School conducted a survey which highlighted a marked difference between how managers claim to behave and how they actually behave. They were noted as claiming to be honest and respectful, when in reality they were more controlling and manipulating. The same study found that managers are creating double binds, which are distressing to say the least to employees. The findings showed that managers give contradictory orders, make the contradiction un-discussable and then make that un-discussability un-discussable itself.

It’s this last point of un-discussability which is the deal-breaker. Misunderstandings are inevitable, but outlawing discussing those problems is what can drive employees up the wall. The simple act of allowing workers to talk about these double binds and issues with their goals is the best strategy to dissolve them.


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