Three Signs of a Miserable Job

Erica Fernandez 3-14-12

Everyone can name a job that made them feel miserable and rethink their career, but what makes the job miserable is the management and the way people are treated. Professional athletes and actors have their dream jobs, but when they come to work, they are just as miserable as us at times because of the way they are treated on a day to day basis. Patrick Lencioni, the author of The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, says it all comes down to three things that show the job is miserable, but if you apply them to the organization, it allows things to become better over time. The three signs are anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement. In order for employees to be happy, managers need to think about how to apply these into work every day. Patrick Lencioni tells a fable about a man who put this into practice and saw significant turnaround in the companies he ran, but even though it is a fable, it really helps people understand the way a company can turn through management. In The Devil Wears Prada and Norma Rae, we can see how the main characters and employees are miserable, but how it all relates back to the management. Patrick Lencioni tells the fable of a man named Brian Bailey in Three Signs of a Miserable Job, who over the course of his life changed the environment of two of the companies he managed and how he became a huge commodity for other companies. He applied the tools of anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement into these companies and the significant improvement of turnover that processed over time because of his new ways. Lencioni also discusses how these three signs apply to many different jobs and the way people would benefit from applying them into their companies. The benefits of job fulfillment are increased productivity, greater retention and lower costs, and cultural differentiation. Brian first became the CEO of JMJ Fitness Machines after a fellow friend declined the job. He had the perfect communication skills and the key personality traits to change a company.

When Brian stepped into the role of CEO, “the company was plagued by relatively high turnover, low morale, and unpredictable productivity” (Lencioni 11), but in then end when he applied the three signs, the company became successful. JMJ Fitness with Brian as CEO, the company “wound up winning more industry awards for being “A Great Place to Work” (pg. 11 Lencioni). He let these people feel important and he understood them on levels past mangers never took the chance to do. But then the company was sold and he was out of a job, and he had these skills and nowhere to use them. He became a retired man who became a part owner of a pizza shop when he saw how horrible this place was being run. He took all skills that he placed in JMJ and put them into this pizza place. He decreased turnover and improved the overall opinions of everyone who worked there. Instead of the manager being responsible for everything, he let each employee be responsible for their own success by following the three signs. He took a personal interest in each employee, then he let me figure out who and how they affect in their jobs, and finally he told them how each person could measure their success every day. Before he left that company, he trained someone from inside the company to take over who knew the three signs and how to apply them into everyday use. Even though Lencioni’s story was a fable, his points clearly show the impact managers have on employees and the way they can make little changes in the structure of their organization to improve job fulfillment for everyone inside that organization. Lencioni clearly states that in order to fix an organization, it has to start with the managers first taking an interest in their employees, then they have to let the employees know who and how they impact on a daily basis and finally, they need to let the employees measure their own success and progress in order to be motivated and find satisfaction in their jobs. These three signs are clearly shown in The Devil

Wears Prada and Norma Rae and how if the managers had taken the time like Bailey, the company could have avoided constant turnover and unhappy employees. When people start most jobs, it is learn as you go without having someone explain your duties and what you have to do every day. Some managers do not sit down and explain anything because they want people to learn everything on their own, but it does have negative backlash. Employees are confused, do not succeed, and end up leaving after a few months. In the first months at a new job, the manager should take the time to get to know his employees on a personal level, but it never happens because managers feel it is not relevant. But according to Lencioni, the first sign of a miserable job is anonymity, which is all about getting to know your employees in order to understand them better. Anonymity is “all about human beings that need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority” (pg. 221). It is about getting to know the employees and understanding them. In the Devil Wears Prada, we do not see Miranda getting to know her employees and what they do outside of work, Andy’s personal life is not important to Miranda because she sees no point in getting to know someone who will end up leaving soon because no one is ever cut out for the fashion world. For example, when Andy is out to dinner with her father, Miranda is constantly calling her to get her a flight out of Florida so she can make her daughters recital the next day, but it is an impossible task. Miranda never makes the effort to see if Andy is busy especially since it is her night off. Even though Andy is the assistant and suppose to take care of all the problems for Miranda, Miranda is also suppose to understand that Andy has a life outside of Runway. Just like managers have life outside of their careers, so do employees and they need to understand that. Andy has to know everything about Miranda, but in order for the manager to be successful, the manager is also supposed to take an interest in the employees. It is very

important for Miranda and other managers to know what their employees do outside of work. Miranda never knew about Andy’s boyfriend or that she missed his birthday to be at a work event. However, we do see Andy take a personal interest in Miranda’s life when she realizes Miranda is going to get replaced by her enemy. Andy runs all over Paris trying to find Miranda in order to warn her about the changes, but in the end Miranda was always one step ahead. Andy never feels appreciated or understood by Miranda and when they are going back to the hotel, Miranda tells Andy that she became just like her when she took Emily’s place in Paris. At that moment, Andy realizes that losing herself and not being appreciated for her hard work is not worth it anymore. She leaves Miranda by herself and goes in search of her real dream job. If Miranda had taken the time from day one to get to know each assistant that is hired, she would never have to keep replacing one right after the other. Brian Bailey saw in the pizza place how the employees were not understood by their previous manager, so he took the time to get to know them. He formed a bond with each employee and helped them reach their maximum potential. But Miranda is not the type of boss to care much about others; she just wants the job done right no matter how long it takes. However, if Miranda had taken the time, she would have less employees leaving. In Norma Rae, we never once see the managers trying to understand their employees and who they are as human beings. When Norma Rae’s mother lost her hearing for a day while at work, we never see the managers take an interest in her health or the employee’s health problems. It is a quick fix and off to work they go again. Just like Andy took an interest in Miranda, Norma Rae does the same thing by making an effort to understand her fellow coworkers, but we never once see a manger ask the employees anything about their lives. Even

though, hundreds of people work in the plant, the mangers could have taken the time to understand them as people. At one point, the mangers took an interest in Norma Rae and what she wanted, but they only did it to keep her quiet. They could not deal with her demands anymore, so they thought by making her shift supervisor, it would keep her happy, but it never did. The workers felt unappreciated and in the end, it led to them fight back with the help of a union worker to become a union in order to get their demands met. When the employees met to discuss their current conditions at work, we hear one gentleman say he would like a window to look out at instead of just staring at dirty walls all day. The managers at the plant never took the time from day one to know their employees because they saw no point. Lencioni says that “some managers reflexively avoid this because they have been taught that is it illegal to ask that kind of question during job interviews” (pg. 230). But it is something that should be done because it is a basic form of human kindness. If the managers at the plant and Miranda took an interest in their employees, it would be the beginning of people starting to like their jobs and feel comfortable. According to Lencioni, irrelevance is about who are you helping and how you helping when it comes to your job. He says human beings need to be needed and they need to know how they are helping others. Lenicioni says “one of the most important things that managers must do is help employees see why their work matters to someone” (pg. 235). Leniconi talks about how managers fear of coming across as self-serving, but when managers praise their employees for a job well-done, the employees feel satisfaction for helping them. Andy does not know who she is really helping at first except her boss, but then as time passed, she sees how her job affects her bosses’ children and other companies. Andy is constantly sent on errands to get coffee, dry cleaning, and taking care of everyday things for Miranda and Andy never once complains because she realizes the impact she is making on her boss’s life. She is taking a load off her

shoulders; the only thing missing is the appreciation from her boss. Just like Leniconi says, employees need to feel that they are making an impact in someone’s life. Employees also need to see why their work matters to someone and that is something Andy does not see at first, but once she started dressing the part, she realized that by wearing the fashion, she is helping her land business deals. As her fashion changes, she starts to affect the designers and their companies through the exposure of her company. In Norma Rae, the employees have no understanding of who they are affecting besides themselves and their health and how they are helping others because the mangers do not seem to tell or help them understand. They just go into work every day without realizing how they are making an impact in someone’s life. The managers need to take time to tell their employees in order to help them understand the work that being done is helping others instead of hurting them. When Norma Rae becomes a shift supervisor, she just makes sure everyone is doing everything on time; however she does not stop to tell them how they are impacting other people’s lives. Norma Rae is hurting more than helping people, but it is not her fault, at the core is the managers who never express to their employees who they are helping and how they are helping. For Lencioni, “immeasurement essentially is an employee’s lack of a clear means of assessing his or her progress or success on the job” (pg. 236). He also says that “employees who can measure their own progress or contribution are going to develop a greater sense of personal responsibility and satisfaction than those who cannot” (pg. 236). Andy has no means of assessing her own progress because the only one who can measure her job is Miranda. And Miranda is not someone who constantly praises her for doing a good job. In one instance, she does tell Andy she did a good job after she got the Harry Potter manuscript for her children, but it takes a lot of effort from Andy and it makes her want to quit. Even though Miranda’s immeasurment is rare,

one way she does is by allowing the new person to deliver the book to her house, which Andy does have the privilege of doing after only working at the company for a few weeks. It is one step in right direction to measure success and progress in the company and if Miranda had taken different ways to show progression for Andy, she probably would have felt less miserable at Runway. When Norma Rae becomes shift supervisor, she measures everyone’s success and how the total for the day is going, but it is something that she reports only to the managers. But after some time, she realizes that she cannot take everyone hating her for doing her job, so she goes back to manual labor. Norma Rae and her employees do not have a way to measure their own success or progress so they do not have a way to feel good about their day. The people in the factory are miserable because of the manager’s lack of giving them a way to measure their own success. They cannot find a sense of personal responsibility due to the fact of the manager’s way of controlling them. Andy and Norma Rae should not have to rely on the opinions of their managers on their success in order to be fulfilled. They should be able to gauge their progress and success in the company because they lack motivation and job fulfillment. Miranda and the mangers at the plant need to find a way to allow the employees to measure their success because when Bailey allowed his employees to manage their success and progress, they found more job satisfaction. I really agree with Patrick Lencioni’s findings because at the root of the problems are the managers. They control everything and if they do not take the time to get to know each employee and how they respond to failure and success, then turnover will always be high in the company. Lencioni’s fable showed the range of different companies and the way these three signs can be found in any job. Norma Rae and The Devil Wears Prada show these three signs in completely

different settings, but they do show how if the manager takes no time in getting to know the employees, the companies will have high turnover and no success. It all comes back to the turnover and the benefits the manager will get if they just applied the three signs into everyday practice. I had a job just like Andy and Norma where my manager took no interest into getting to know me and I quit after a few months. The way my success was measured on a daily basis made me feel unmotivated and miserable all the time. Just being in that type of environment every day makes you feel horrible about yourself and it leads to problems in your personal life. Lencioni said people need to feel important and understood and I agree with him on every level because if you do not start to take an interest in their employees, the company will never succeed. Everyone can think about a miserable job and how bad they wanted to quit at that moment, but just like Andy and Norma Rae, the three signs show how the management did nothing to get to know them so they would have a better time coming to work every day. You can be working at your dream job and still hate it because of the way you are treated. If your manager never takes the time to get to know their current employees, they are going to be train new people all the time. Managers need to be shown that the three signs work and that they do not take a lot of time out of the day.

Works Cited Lencioni, Patrick. The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (and Their Employees). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2007. Print. Norma Rae. Dir. Martin Ritt. By Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank. Perf. Sally Field, Beau Bridges, and Ron Leibman. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 1979. DVD. The Devil Wears Prada. Dir. David Frankel. Prod. Wendy Finerman. By Aline Brosh McKenna. Perf. Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Stanley Tucci. 20th Century Fox, 2006.

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