Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Work Myths

I’ve come across several situations in my work life in which perception did not match reality. I refer to these instances as Work Myths. A Work Myth is when a superior or co-worker makes a statement or comment about something as if it were fact, when in reality you know that what they are saying is completely bogus.

“Our workers live the company mission statement.”

This mission statement for your company is like the Loch Ness Monster. Some people have seen it or thought they’ve seen it, but most are skeptical of its existence. This is because the mission statement is created and never really filtered down through the ranks. I believe that many times top Executives just create the mission because they see that other companies have them and just think they need one as well. Most workers don’t even know or understand the mission statement. Because of this, people report in daily not really understanding how their job impacts the overall success of the company. When you go to work today, ask ten people to tell you what your company’s vision and mission are and see how many answer correctly. The majority of people will respond with a chuckle or blank look. Mission statements are just fluff unless each employee really knows and understands those statements and what they mean. It’s the job of upper management to ensure the message continues to filter down to everyone in the company.

“We have a strategic plan in place and use that as our roadmap to success”

This is a term your upper management can use because it sounds good verbally and in writing. I mean you have the word “strategic” coupled with the word “plan” so it would seem like your company has it together. The reality is that, much like the mission statement, the strategic plan is created but rarely followed and executed. In my company we have a “strategic plan” in place. The plan has never been fully reviewed with management and employees outside of our executive staff. There are a set of objectives for completion that align with the various sections of the plan. I was recently reviewing the plan and saw that over 90% of the objectives had not been completed with a majority of those objectives being past due by over 6 months. I brought this up to my boss and he shrugged it off (“I don’t think he knows we have a strategic plan either”). In reality our “strategic plan” was a document put together, with the help of a consultant, to make our shareholders feel like our upper management knows what they are doing. The strategic plan should be a “roadmap” that is clearly understood and acted upon. But again, if it’s done to just say we have one; the strategic plan becomes a useless component of your company.

“Each employee goes through a thorough training program during their orientation.”

We’ve all heard this one either before or after starting at a company. The “thorough training program” usually consists of a day of going through benefit information followed by a half-assed company overview. Then you are thrown to the wolves and expected to perform. As you make mistakes or changes you get to hear the “that’s not how you do it” or “John never did it that way”. I also enjoy not being able to get training approved once you have been with a company. At my current company for example, I asked for external training relevant to my job. I was told it wasn’t in the training budget. The next year I tried to adjust my department budget to include dollars for training and was denied. So it’s not in the training budget and I can’t budget it myself. Looks like I’m screwed. Solid companies realize that mapping out real training programs for employees leads to better productivity, lower turnover, and higher employee satisfaction.

“The salary range for your position is based on industry standards and research”

I’ve heard this line 150 times from either a boss or HR. When you actually ask to see the research on the “industry standards” they can never produce it. Then you ask to see your salary range and you get the comment “that information is confidential”. I’ve asked how my own salary range information can be confidential and gotten a dirty look or just plain ignored. I don’t doubt there is a range created based on some type of standards but the reality is that when you are offered a position, companies try to low ball you as much as possible. Then once you are hired they don’t want to share with you how low you are compared to the benchmark of others in your position.

“You will be rewarded yearly with a performance increase based on your review”

In many companies this is not a Work Myth as you actually will get a salary increase and bonus based on your performance combined with the performance of the company. If you are one of the unlucky people to be stuck at a bad company, the “performance reward increase” is not really an increase for your hard work, but instead a cost of living increase. To add insult to injury you may be asked to write your own review. At my current company my boss asked me to write my review stating that he’ll “tweak it”. This is your boss’ way of saying that he didn’t take the time during the year to document what you did and now expects you to fill in the blanks. So basically you write your own review for a crappy increase, that’s the reality!

I’d like to hear what Work Myths you can come up with. Post a comment using the comment link at the bottom of this entry. Look forward to hearing from you.


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