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Office frustration? How performance barriers can be fixed and motivation can be translated into performance

K. S Ahluwalia

If you think the typical frustrated office worker is probably just a slacker or a grump, think again. A majority of frustrated employees are actually dedicated and seemingly engaged workers who are frustrated because of organizational obstacles.
A recent study conducted focuses on how to deal with these barriers to performance say that managers can make their teams a lot more effective by being change agents and making the leaders aware that enablement issues are impacting workplace productivity.


Let’s visit as to how these performance barriers can be fixed, and how employee motivation can be translated into performance.


What exactly is workplace frustration?
There are a lot of frustrated people in today’s organizations- not referring to demotivated or turned off employees. That group is likely to be too checked out to experience personal stress or conflict over their inability to get things done.


Rather, we’re talking about employees who are aligned with goals and objectives and enthusiastic about making a difference – but are held back by jobs that do not suit them or work environments that get in their way.


From a motivational perspective, managers have these employees where they want them.


But when it comes to ensuring that they are as productive as possible, managers are missing out.


Data indicates that frustrated employees make up 20% or more of the workforce of a typical company.

How do you translate employee motivation into performance?

Engaging and motivating employees, while important, is not sufficient to sustain maximum levels of performance over time.


To get the most from employees, leaders must also ensure that organizational systems and work environments support personal and organizational effectiveness.


In an enabled workforce, employees are effectively matched to positions such that their skills and abilities are put to optimal use.


Likewise, employees have the essential resources – information, technology, tools and equipment, and financial support -to get the job done.


They are able to focus on their key responsibilities without wasting time navigating such obstacles as procedural restrictions or nonessential tasks in the work environment.
What do you eliminate workplace frustration?

First is performance management.


We’re all good at handing out work, but we’re not so great at helping employees prioritize tasks or at pulling away nonessential work.


Tell pressured employees which tasks are the most critical, have the greatest impact on the organization, should be done first or absolutely must be done.


Don’t make them struggle to determine that on their own.


Second is empowerment.


If you think you’re empowering your employees by stepping completely out of their way, you could be wrong.

The absence of boundaries is not empowering; it’s limiting.

Employees who don’t understand how far their authority reaches will be fearful of overstepping it. So clarify the scope of employees’ authority.

With ‘specific freedom to act’, employees can make decisions without worrying about going too far. Then there are work processes that are meant to help employees accomplish their routine work as efficiently as possible.


But as business conditions change, work processes might not work anymore. Since efficient execution is only helpful if directed at the right targets, evaluate work processes regularly to ensure that they’re aligned with changing work demands.
Managers might believe there’s nothing they can do to increase the resources available to their employees. And while their hands might be tied on the size of the budget or the staff, there’s plenty of leeway elsewhere.


Fill staff vacancies as soon as possible so you make use of all of allocated positions. Cross-train employees so they can cover for each other to minimize the impact of absences. And, finally, evaluate whether you have the right people on your team and are focusing them on doing the right things.


Organizations tend to emphasize training for new hires and those who are changing roles. Too often, they overlook the value of ongoing training for all employees.

Your organization is changing and evolving.


Without training, employees will not have the skills they need to keep up with changing work demands.

Remember that the skills and knowledge that made an employee successful in the past might not be what makes him or her successful today and treat training as a continual process.


In environments where it’s all a manager can do to meet his or her own department’s goals, it’s hard to focus on bigger, companywide needs or helping another team.


But hunkering down and focusing only on the goals of your own team robs the organization of the effort it needs to reach its broader objectives.


Encourage your organization’s leaders and managers to wear their ‘enterprise hats’ and to keep a collaborative perspective.
Increasingly, organizations are demanding that their employees ‘do more with less’, shorthand for continually raising the bar on goals and expectations while spending less money.


Because management is watching costs, it is unlikely to give workers what they need to do the job well. But armed with a perspective aimed at enabling workers, you’ll find that doing more with less has new meaning.


The enabling view shifts the focus to how managers and leaders need to respond. In this context, doing more with less doesn’t mean conjuring up ever-higher levels of motivation, but rather unleashing the full potential of frustrated employees – those who want to give their best, but can’t because of organizational barriers and constraints.

What were the biggest insights during the course of your research?

When it comes to workplace frustration, what you don’t know can hurt you.


Given the tension involved for employees, frustration is an inherently unstable state. Where strong motivation to succeed is not paired with similar levels of support in the work environment, employees can be expected to respond in one of three ways – most often within a time span of 12 months or less -leaving managers with little time to act.


The ideal response would be if, through force of effort, employees find ways to break through the barriers presented by low levels support and upgrade their work arrangements to match their motivational levels.


The other, less ideal response would be employees finding equilibrium by reducing their motivation to match their limited opportunities to succeed. Weary of beating their heads against a wall, they may simply decide that giving their best effort is not worth their time and stop trying.


Other frustrated employees, especially high performers or high potentials, can be expected to vote with their feet and leave in search of greener pastures where they stand a better chance of succeeding.


What role can managers play as change agents?
Fundamentally, being an organizational change agent means giving voice to the frustrated employee. There are a number of reasons why enablement issues are often overlooked in organizations, and the manager who understands frustration can help overcome these barriers.

The organization may not have systems in place to hear employee frustration, such as a regular employee survey that focuses on both engagement and enablement issues. But managers have the ability to ask employees directly.


Managers who understand that frustration is a major cause of performance problems need to discuss sources of frustration directly with employees.


Asking employees directly about their frustration also helps get around the ‘we can’t hear them’ problem.
Motivated and engaged employees are often disinclined to voice their concerns.


They may believe that things are unlikely to change and that voicing their concerns will have no impact or, worse, will make them look like complainers. High-achieving employees want to be seen as loyal and committed to helping the organization succeed.

Sometimes we avoid dealing with frustration because it’s a lot easier to see the costs of addressing enablement issues than it is to see the ultimate savings or benefits.


There may be a general awareness in the organization that some things are amiss in terms of enabling conditions, but given other ‘urgent’ priorities, action isn’t taken.

However, if managers can confront leaders with real-time information, feedback, and data, they can promote a focus on key enablement issues.


What is said will probably not come as entirely surprising news, but leaders may not be fully aware of its importance or its implications.


About the author: K. A Ahluwalia

K.S Ahluwalia has over 30+ years of business experience across sales, operations, logistic and retail, publishing, consulting and management roles. Experienced in organization development consultant with primary expertise in leadership assessment, skills enhancement and performance management.Has a unique ability to partner with senior leadership, adapt well to change, and collaborate with people throughout an organization allows to build productive relationships and solutions that have had a positive impact on the bottom line for numerous corporations.

D 138 sector 36, Noida. 210303. India.

Cell 91-98188 12102

Email ks.ahluwalia@yahoo.com

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