Why Do You Come to Work?

By on September 5, 2018
Why Do You Come to Work?

I’m assuming we all agree that the answer employees give to this question will tell us a lot about their performance on the job. If the answer is, “To get paid,” that tells us one thing. If it’s “Because I love what I do,” that tells us something very different.

Over the years I’ve heard many types of responses to this question. Here are some that I recall.

“I’ve got a lot of years in and every day I come in is one day closer to my retirement.”

“I really like the guys I work with.”

“I hate this place. The only reason I come to work is to support my family.”

“I don’t know. I walked through the door fifteen years ago and here I am.”

“Because every day when I leave I can say to myself, ‘You did a lot of good work today.’”

And here’s one that’s really stands out in my memory.

“I come to work to do a good job because I want my company to make money.”

When I heard this comment, I thought to myself there couldn’t possibly be a better reason for coming to work. This one says it all. Wanting to do a good job. Wanting his company to succeed. Being aware of the relationship between the quality of his work and the success of his company.

And who said this? It was a fellow named Richard, who works in a sheltered workshop where I’ve been doing volunteer consulting. While I was observing him at work taking bottles of beer out of cases and repackaging them into six-packs with seasonal themes, he turned to me and said, “Do you know why I come to work?” I responded, “No, why do you?” To which he responded with that beautiful comment “I come to work to do a good job because I want my company to make money.” And when he said it, he had a big smile on his face.

Ever since hearing Richard say this, I’ve thought about why he feels this way. Specifically, I’ve thought about these questions.

  1. Does it have to do with the way his abilities are used on the job?
  2. Does it have to do with the quality of his interactions with his fellow workers?
  3. Does it have to do with his being aware of the fit of what he does into the making of the product?
  4. Does it have to do with his being aware of the direct relationship between the quality of his work and the success of the organization?
  5. Does it have to do with the quality of the feedback he gets from his supervisor?

Here’s what I’ve concluded.

Richard wants to come to work every morning, because his abilities are fully utilized on the job. To keep up with the pace of production, he must be totally focused on the work he’s doing. He can’t day dream while he repackages the beer bottles. He has to keep pace with others on the production line, so everything flows smoothly. And from this experience he has that sense of pride that comes from successfully doing something that isn’t at all easy to do and knowing that you’re doing it well.

Richard wants to come to work every morning because he feels strongly that he’s a member of a team. He interacts very positively with employees on his line. I’ve heard him encouraging them as the partially filled six-packs proceed down the line, at the end of which they’re put into cases and placed on a pallet.

Richard wants to come to work every morning because he understands how the work he does fits into the final product, a full case of beer holding four seasonal six packs. The work he does doesn’t happen in isolation. He doesn’t have to imagine what the final product looks like. He can literally see it being made.

Richard wants to come to work every morning because he’s proud of the place where he works and wants the organization to succeed. I’m certain that when Richard walks through the door in the morning, he’s thinking to himself, “this is really a great place to work.”

Richard wants to come to work every morning because he gets positive feedback from his supervisor on the work he does. He knows he’s appreciated, and he knows he’s respected.

Aren’t these the very qualities that make all of us want to come to work? Don’t we all want to experience the joy of knowing that we’ve successfully done something that was difficult to do? Don’t we all want to feel the camaraderie of being on a smoothly functioning team? Don’t we all want to know how what we do fits into the making of the finished product? Isn’t it important that we feel proud of the place where we work? And don’t we all want to get positive feedback from the person to whom we report?

Obviously, the answer to each of these five questions is a resounding “Yes.” I’m sure we all agree that it’s very important to have employees who want to come to work and who take pride in the quality of their work. So how do we make it happen?

That’s the question I’m going to address in my next blog. And I’d like for the writing of this blog to be a team effort. So, reader, here’s what I’m asking. Think about these five questions and send me an email (gfriesen@stlcc.edu) with your thoughts about how create an organization where people really do feel very good about coming to work. I’ll incorporate your thinking into the next blog in this series.

Also, if you’d prefer to share your thoughts on these questions by phone, just call me at 314-303-0612. I look forward to hearing from you. And I also very much hope you enjoy going to work!

About George Friesen

George Friesen serves as Business Practice Leader - Lean Manufacturing for the Workforce Solutions Group of St. Louis Community College. He has led the College's Lean business practice area since 2000. Prior to joining the College, George worked for Maritz Performance Improvement Company. Over the past 35 years, he has served a wide variety of Fortune 500 companies, specializing during the past eleven years in Lean Manufacturing, focusing especially on the 5S System, Lean leadership and thinking processes, Value Stream Mapping, and Lean team building. George is a graduate of Washington University (AB), Webster University (MA), and United States Air Force Flight Training.

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