Liveblog: Pa Sinyan on how strengths-based leadership drives creativity, performance & wellbeing

Work might be the most broken system there is. It's making people miserable. And, as Pa Sinyan, points out we know exactly who to blame… managers.

Warning: Live-blogging. Prone to error, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax. This post will be updated over the next few days.

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The world has never been as sad and stressed as it is now. And no, it’s not about COVID. The pandemic accelerated it, but it was a trend before. Why?

We spend more time at work than most other activities. Primary paid work is one of our least enjoyable activities. Why primary? Many of us have other jobs – coaching sports teams, working in religious communities – in the rest of our life.

Based on research by Kahneman, we enjoy spending time with:

  1. Friends
  2. Relatives
  3. Significant Others

Who do we not like spending time with? Customers, colleagues – and your boss is the worst. Only 20% of people look forward to work, and find that it gives them energy. It’s even worse in Germany, and even worse than that in France and Italy. It’s always a minority.

Quiet quitting is not new

Everybody is talking about “quiet quitting” – it’s been around for 30 years! We call it “not actively engaged” and it’s around 62% of people. The actively disengaged are those who are loudly quitting. They hate the new strategy before it’s announced. Why? Because they have been ignored or treated badly and with disrespect. Active disengagement is the result of the workplaces, not the people themselves.

How you experience your work has a lot of influence on how you experience your life. We can separate them as much as we might like to. If you disengage from work, you are unlikely to feel that you are thriving in life.

Most change programmes fail because people are disengaged. When they are engaged, they will throw energy into the change. It’s extremely difficult to do that with a disengaged workforce.

What’s wrong with work?

So, what’s the key problem?

We spend a lot of time talking about company cultures. They don’t really exist. If you have a company with 1000 teams, you have 1000 cultures. 70% of the variance in employee experience Is about the manager. It’s all about your direct boss. Gallup’s data shows that really clearly.

The reality, though, is that we choose bosses because they’re good at their main role. We reward them by giving them a job that has nothing to do with their skills. The other reason? Tenure. They’ve just been around long enough that they end up as a manager. Want to be promoted? Just wait it out.

The third reason is the first good one: a mentor who saw some potential in you.

Work isn’t working because we have crappy managers. They’ve been put into a job they aren’t suited to, and they need help. But 97% of managers think they’re good at the job, but 69% of employees disagree… Nobody wakes up trying to be a bad manager. They’re just unaware they’re doing it.

What can we do about it?

At Gallup, we believe in strengths-based leadership. When you focus on what is right in people, you get better results. When the school results come home, we tend to look at the children’s weakest subject first. We should focus on what they’re strong at first. But it’s not natural to us. 65% of us go straight to our weaknesses. We have a natural negativity bias. Hate kicks love’s ass all day, every day. You go to a great restaurant, you tell 10 people. You go to a bad one, you tell a thousand.

There’s an evolutionary reason for this. When everything around us was trying to kill us. We don’t live in that world anymore – but we act as if we do.

We live in an era of change. Allowing people to be themselves through that is critical. When people have managers who focus on people’s strengths and assets, they feel more freedom to be themselves. If we make people’s work better, we make a huge improvement in people’s lives generally.

In summary

  1. Work influences your well-being
  2. It’s the manager, dummy!
  3. Play to your strengths.

Pa Sinyan is Managing Partner with Gallup and leads Gallup’s teams across EMEA. In his role, he supports leading companies to drive organisational and cultural change.