What do we mean by Work. Shouldn’t. Suck.?

It's not that work won’t suck or doesn’t suck sometimes, but it shouldn't. The health of teams and organizations rests on their ability to create and maintain environments where people can do their best work and thrive. Continually making progress towards this is core to a leader’s responsibilities, and key to one’s ability to find meaning and purpose in their work. When work sucks, it’s usually an indicator of something we should investigate and potentially address.

Below are highlights from topics we've researched, pondered, presented, and taught.

Find more on Medium and PeopleOps.tv.



CEO Not (Necessarily) Required

Those playing along at home will recall that Fractured Atlas recently embarked on a few new adventures. One of which is the creation of a four-person, non-hierarchical leadership team for the organization. (I recently shared a collection of research on the topic. If you can wait a bit longer, I’m publishing a subsequent post that distills the key findings from the hundreds of hours I spent reviewing material.)

At Fractured Atlas, we’re approaching our foray into shared leadership much like anything we attempt: as an iterative process that progresses through our R&D pipeline. This process began with deep conversations over several months between the senior leadership of our staff and board. These conversations allowed us space and time to question conventional and received wisdom, and explore questions like:


Scarcity and the Non-Profit People Paradox

Resource scarcity leads us to borrow, and that pushes us deeper into scarcity. Why? Because when we have scarce resources we tunnel (i.e., we focus on the here and now, the fires, what needs to get done right now). Tunneling leads us to neglect. Tunneling today creates more tunneling tomorrow, and leads us to borrow — in a borrowing from Petra to pay Paula and eventually needing to pay back Petra with significant interest scenario — so that we’re using the same physical resources less effectively, placing us one step behind.

Then, we find ourselves needing to juggle. This creates a patchwork of delayed commitments and short-term solutions that need to be constantly revisited and revised. We don’t have bandwidth to plan a way out of the trap and, when we make a plan, we don’t have the bandwidth needed to resist temptations and persist. The lack of slack and capacity reduces our ability to absorb and weather shocks, and when we do have slack we use it to catch our breath rather than use those moments of abundance to create buffers against future scarcity.


Work. Shouldn't. Suck.

Why People Ops Can't Wait Until Tomorrow

Gallup’s Worker Engagement Index found that, globally, only 15% of employees are engaged. Engaged employees are those with passion and who feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.

That leaves a whopping 85% of employees who are not engaged. Sixty percent of total employees are disengaged and essentially checked out. They’re sleepwalking through their workday putting time — but not energy or passion — into their work. And then there’s… wait for it… 25% of total employees who are *actively* disengaged — WOWZA!! That’s a quarter of employees who aren’t just unhappy at work, they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these employees undermine what the 15% of engaged coworkers are trying to accomplish.

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Bring Your Whole(ish) Self to Work


Remember when it seemed like everyone was trying to achieve “work-life” balance? More recently, perhaps in a nod to the challenges of balancing “work” and “life” in an always-connected world, or maybe because for those searching for meaning and purpose in their activities there’s not always a bright line distinction between “work” and “life,” the phrase has shifted to “bringing our whole selves to work.”


Human Psychology & The Office Renovation*


Remember that time you tried to change something and it involved other people? People will love this new thing, you said. It will make their lives so much better and easier, you said. Remember how you were blindsided by the push back, the skepticism as to your motives, and the accompanying anxiety, angst, and negativity directed towards you? Remember how you shouldn’t have been surprised because behavioral scientists have spelled out why change initiatives — large and small — can be fraught? Understanding the people pitfalls that accompany change initiatives can help you hopefully avoid, or prepare for, hours of angst.


Innovative Workplace, With No Money Down!

Being an “innovative workplace” isn’t just about having a great idea. Great ideas are a dime a dozen. The halls of history are littered with great, unrealized innovative ideas. Innovative workplaces instead are about the people and systems that allow and support ideas to be explored, nurtured, and often, nixed.

You can create an innovative workplace with little to no “extra” money. However, here’s the catch (or small print, if you will), buyer beware: it requires commitment and intent that will test even the most resolute.

Investing in our people

A pathway for confronting the cultural sector’s challenges

The health of the cultural sector, and its ability to be creative, innovative, and resilient depends on the quality and skills of the people working for our organizations. In order for our sector to remain vibrant and relevant, we need to continually develop and leverage the skills our people possess.

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Would you rather be right or effective?

I used to work with someone who would always ask “Which would you rather” questions. Which would you rather: Wear a bathing suit in Antarctica, or a snow suit in the desert? Which would you rather as a musician: Be a one-hit wonder with a song that defines summer for a generation, or a member of a band with modest success for 10 years?

Since those days, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for “Which would you rather” questions. In the latest episode of How We Work, we explore “Which would you rather, be right or effective?” in the context of an abrasive leader about to lose their job.

Core behavioral values, whether you want them or not

Here’s the good news. Your company has core behavioral values! Here’s the bad news. They might not be ones you want, ones you’re particular proud of, or ones you would print on a t-shirt even to wear on laundry day. Every organization — and every individual, for that matter — has core behavioral values. Values that define and drive the way we act, inform our work and decision-making, and signal to the world in a calling card of sorts, this is what’s important to us. Why define your core behavioral values? You have some whether or not you articulate them.


A Strategic Hiring Adventure

Over the years at Fractured Atlas, we’ve invested a great deal of time, effort, and research into improving and honing our hiring process. In this episode of How We Work — created primarily for those staff members involved in our hiring process — we delve into the history, our philosophy, and the stages of the interview process.