Reducing support staff can cost you in the long run

For obvious reasons and considering how I’ve found myself constantly economizing my time and troubleshooting errors with tools at work, I was very drawn to this article in the Harvard Business Review compliation called Managing Yourself.

The article cites the common occurance of ADT or Attention Deficit Trait in today’s workplace.  Simply put when you are overloaded with stimuli and tasks on a continual basis, your ability to concentrate effectively and think creatively becomes challenged.  As the article puts it:

The result is black-and-white thinking; perspective and shades of gray disappear. People with ADT have difficulty staying organized, setting priorities, and managing time, and they feel a constant low level of panic and guilt.

Personally, and I will admit this. I am very familiar with this ‘low level of panic and guilt.’  I can only describe it in a common mantra that runs through my mind frequently: “I’m not doing enough. I’m not doing enough.” I continue to struggle with overcoming this guilt and gaining true perspective over what I can accomplish and what I should be focusing on for my own personal and intellectual development.  I can ony think that I’m not the only person in the corporate void who experiences these feelings of guilt and the notion that there’s something fundamentally wrong with feeling this way.

This common occurance of deadening ADT might explain the corporate rush to foster innovation within its ranks.   We are trained within the corporate environment to do two things:

  1. Multitask to the limit of multitasking
  2. Maximize the amount time that’s unused from the 80/20 rule. 20 of time at work produces 80% of the results.

 More, it completely explains what I’ve examined to be a common occurance in the corporate environments I’ve worked in. People becomes so ingrained in how they do business because they are overworked that they cannot think constructively or effectively about how to fix their problems. Sometimes, they can’t even see that there is a problem.   A friend and co-worker of mine calls this phenomenon, “Running with Scissors.”

More, the efforts to economize on support don’t always help matters either. The more time you spend time managing the day to day. The less time you have to learn and explore for the purpose of improving your work or finding new solutions or products. The less time you have to think and create. For leaders, it means less time to develop and execute strategy for growth.  As the article notes:

Moreover, organizations make the mistake of forcing their employees to do more and more with less and less by eliminating support staff. Such companies end up losing money in the long run, for the more time a manager has to spend being his own administrative assistant and the less he is able to delegate, the less effective he will be in doing the important work of moving the organization forward.

It’s important to note that support staff isn’t limited to administrative support, it also includes IT and HR. From my own personal experience, it’s really hard to do your job and do it well when you have to worry about troubleshooting browser or server issues on top of being able to use tools and software that don’t always work with security patches.  More,  HR should be working to support managment and leadership in educating them on how to effectively drive their staffs to meet company goals (set accountability for competencies in leading and management). More, HR has the huge task of working with upper management to help identify ways to make the company culture a fertile ground for employee growth and productivity… but again, that’s presupposes having to deal with a whole bunch of ‘touchy-feely’ stuff that doesn’t always DIRECTLY translate into Return on Investment.

As the article also notes there are examples of companies who truly understand the value of preventing chronic “Attention Defecit Trait,” and empowering their employees to develop and work to their full potential.  I can only hope.   I do feel that the companies who can build a culture which truly empowers their employees to create and learn and look for new opportunities for change will be the companies that that reap the benefits of being able to quickly adapt to the changing economy.   The days of the factory mentality are numbered.

Reference From: “Overloaded Circuits—Why Smart People Underperform” – Harvard  Business Review.

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