In a TED talk in 2008, Marc Pachter claimed that the modest person makes the worst interviewee. You might think that this isn’t a problem - most of us never get interviewed, you have to be pretty important or just in the right place at the right time. Business owners are seriously missing out though if we don’t think the ‘average’ person has something of value to share. A Gallup survey showed that across the world, only 13% of people in the workplace are actively engaged in their work. That makes the remaining 87% of people a convincing ‘average’, people whose experiences we need to capture to bring them on board. So what is going on here?
This lack of trading stories will be a problem if we want to collect information about the quality of work in the workplace. Here are four reasons why we don’t share our experiences.
To share something with others, like an experience of your workplace, you have to believe that you have something worth sharing. If you’re the person who ‘only works at the supermarket’, who cares? There doesn't seem to be the need, time or encouragement to really think about what we do know. For others, it is just another day at the office (or in the hardware store or factory).
You might think that it’s too hard to explain. Not worth the effort. You might believe that if you do share, nothing will happen as a result so why bother. Nothing happened last time, did it? High investment, low return.
What’s the value?
Professor Teresa Amabile of Harvard University has 15 years’ of evidence of the power of collecting journals of the personal experiences of people at work. Her TED talk shows how businesses are missing out on a massively effective tool to improve the quality of work for their people. Amabile has shown the link between small wins and a better experience of work, and more sustainable and profitable businesses.
Where does this leave us?
If the ordinary person does not have a voice about what is and is not working for them, then how do we make day to day life better? What incentives are there to speak up. If you don’t speak, how can I know as a manager? If I can’t ask as a manager because you won’t listen or won’t respond or it won’t make sense, how do we move forward with that?
The best option here is to just believe that everyone has a story worth listening to and for every one of us to believe we have a story that worth sharing.
What you can do
The interesting thing here is that because of the internet and apps like facebook and LinkedIn, everyone can share a story. It doesn’t make sense as an individual data point, but with a bit of work, it can. The work is in the asking and in the listening and in the gathering of these stories. I’ve developed a tool to help with both.
If you would like to share your story of work anonymously, click this link and share away. It’s a novel way to get it out into the world to show how sharing experiences of work can help build better jobs and workplaces.
One small request - There is a free text field at the end. Please write your country and your profession or job in this field.