The economy is overrated

Someone once told me they didn’t bring back the cart at the shopping center because it “helps create jobs”. It’s a bit like we have accepted that there needs to be Bullshit Jobs.

A speech I’ve always liked is this one by Robert Kennedy:

It demonstates so well how the GDP and so many other measures of “success” are faulty.

Even the way we measure the economy is all wrong. This NYT article does a very good job of showing why even with a low unemployment rate and a high GDP we have so much inequality and suffering.

It reminds me a bit of vanity metrics (A metric that makes you feel good without telling you anything about your business). We have started to optimize our government policy for those vanity metrics. Instead of going to the root causes of what makes a great society we have metrics that, while initially well intentioned, have distracted us from the real goal.

Leaving behind the old metrics in search of better ones would be a good start. (until we end up corrupting those…)

Burnout

I think there’s a big misconception about burnout in today’s society. We assume that burn out is just when you do too much work. If you work 70h a week or something like that you’ll burnout.

I don’t think that’s the case. We already know what motivates people. Yet seem unaware that burnout is the opposite of this. Managers often are trying to “shield” employees and making decisions that are “for their own good” but creates the opposite result. Really what drives people to burnout is:

  • The lack of self-direction (Autonomy)
  • The inability to impact necessary change when it’s needed (Purpose)
  • The inability to grow in the direction we want (Mastery).

In the past, I’ve let folks work on things I thought were a waste a time. Not because I didn’t think they could use their time better but rather because not letting them would reduce their output to lower than it currently was. Even if they now spend 20% of their time on something I disagree with, the other 80% will be much more productive because of it and, in the end, that will help the team.

Now you may say, well I really don’t want that person to work on that. Or I really don’t think that’s a good idea. That means you don’t share the same vision as your employee and the only real solution is to let them go.

In the knowledge economy there are 2 things you should do with employees:

  • Empower them
  • Fire them

You should only ever do those 2 things. All the other ways out of the problem just postpone or create a worse problem in the future. As much as letting someone go is tough, most organizations I’ve been a part of should have done it more often rather than less often.