Asking people what they want isn’t the answer

If you asked a child what they would like more of to be happy what are they likely to say? Lollies, a bike, to stay up late or for their brother or sister to be given to another family.

If you asked a group of couples what they want more of in their relationships, what would you get? It’s likely to be less nagging, more time together and more sex.

The same goes for in the workplace (not the sex bit). I’d like better food, no one mandating where I work and more money. Ok yes, I am generalising in all of the above.  We run engagement surveys and focus groups to find out what people want and need. But what if they don’t know what they really need? And often what they want and need are not the same.

The problem with asking people what they want, is that those who don’t want to be held to account will not ask for this. According to Cy Wakeman, in her book Reality-Based Leadership, about 20% of the average employee workforce is highly engaged, 65% disengaged and 15% highly disengaged (and still collecting a paycheck). Cy shows that there is a correlation between the disengaged and those that blame external circumstances and people as a default. That is, unhappy people have a tendency to think the situation they are in is outside their control and not something they can fix or change. So they want the circumstances and people around them to adjust, for them to be engaged in what they are doing, and where they are working.

Interesting huh?

This then perpetuates the cycle. Workplaces keep ‘fixing’ what employees want by asking them. And the disengaged workforce expects leaders and others to do all the heavy lifting. It also creates greater levels of entitlement. The exact opposite of what our intention is. I’m not saying we don’t ask. I’m suggesting we look for the problems that exist and solve them. 

This is a more productive way to create amazing cultures. Solve problems. Not create entitlement.

Can we talk culture? Yes we can. If you want to talk to us about improving your workplace culture, send me a note or DM me now.