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Creative Career Path

The Last Straw2010.02.10

    A familiar Arab proverb warns about the last straw that broke the overloaded camel’s back. Today, the last straw is casting its thin shadow over people who are lucky to be employed, but in the unlucky position of having to do the job of two or more people, for the pay of one or less.

    Reduced revenues mean that a skeleton staff is often left to lift the heavy weights. Scaling back on staff increases the burden for those remaining. If this condition lasts for long, people start looking for another job.

    The president of Canon Electronics, Hisashi Sakamaki, created quite a controversy with his policy to get rid of all chairs, and to regulate that employees must walk at a pace exceeding 5 meters in 3.6 seconds, or else an alarm is sounded with a revolving light to remind them to keep the pace up. He has also authored a book promoting this approach as a way for other companies to climb out of the recession.

    Another book takes a very different perspective. The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, written by Leigh Branham and published by the American Management Association, provides numerous tips and strategies for HR managers to recognize the subtle signs and act before it’s too late. It might be thought of as a manifesto for solving the problem of the last straw.

    Branham’s book is well researched and documented, based on surveys by the prestigious Saratoga Institute, of 19,000 employees who revealed their real reasons for leaving. This research resulted in 54 Best Practices for keeping good people in your company.

    According to Leigh Branham, 90 percent of managers believe that people leave or stay because of the money, while 90 percent of employees say they leave because of issues related to “job, manager, culture, or work environment.” If this gap in perception were not so great, perhaps those employees would be loyal, not leaving.

    This has been discussed in articles online, and the 54 strategies are well worth the read. There are 7 hidden reasons that departing employees give for leaving. In brief, the real reasons are: 1) the job was not as expected, 2) there was a mismatch between the person and job skills, 3) lack of feedback or coaching, 4) closed doors or lack of advancement opportunities, 5) lack of recognition or appreciation, 6) stress and life-work imbalance, 7) loss of trust in top leaders.

    Any one of these can become the last straw, and all of them have the potential to turn into huge haystacks.

    But before we jump to the obvious conclusion, let’s consider a point of view that might be even more radical. When companies are in crisis, they often have no choice but to increase the workload. If you are stuck in a rut, spinning your wheels will only dig you deeper, while wringing your hands and complaining about the situation digs a mental rut, which may be even harder to get out of.

    Maybe we should use productivity as a measure of engagement, but with persuasion not punishment. The 7 hidden reasons why employees leave, can be turned around and read as, the 7 hidden opportunities for increasing employee engagement.

    Address the problem honestly, because people are too smart to be fooled by tricks and manipulation. At the same time, empower people to be productive at what they excel at and enjoy.

    Motivation is derived from the word motive, that which causes motion or prompts action. Positive motivation is internally driven and self-sustaining. When people are truly motivated, they don’t need to be told what to do, where to find ideas, nor threatened to keep moving.

    When people work in a highly motivating environment magic happens. Hard work actually increases your fitness and capacity to do more work, which is why geniuses are incredibly prolific and productive in their field. They have found their path of least resistance, surpassing even their own expectations, and done it of their own free will.

    When you truly enter your creative career path, and find an employer or client who appreciates and encourages you to follow it, you will remove every strand of straw from the haystack and find the needle within. And speaking of genius, when Albert Einstein was asked what he would do if he actually found a needle in a haystack he said, “I would continue looking to see if there were other needles.” 


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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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