Eliminating Productivity Paranoia with Power Skills

October 2, 2022

There’s a new buzzword at work — productivity paranoia.

Just when we saw chatter around quiet quitting die down, research popped up around something that Josh Bersin calls an “organizational design problem”. Microsoft recently released its Work Trend Index for 2022, and everyone is talking about a new phenomenon that highlights the increasing misalignment between employers and employees over employee productivity. This is caused by a disconnect between how much people say they are working and how much leaders believe them. The easiest way to understand this is by seeing the data.

Microsoft’s report surveyed and analyzed data from over 20,000 people across 11 countries. It showed that while 87% of employees said that they were being productive at work, only 12% employers actually believed so. Leaders seemed to have very low confidence in their employees when it came to how much time they were spending on work. In conjunction however, working hours and meetings seemed to have increased by 153% over the last year and globally 53% managers said they were burnt out at work.

So, what’s the missing link? On one hand, employees feel burnt out and working hours have gone up, but on the other, employers don’t look at it as translating into “productivity”. Josh Bersin refers to this as “a problem of organization design, accountability, and focus”.

In fact, Microsoft claims in its report that hybrid working has played a huge factor in this shift. What is interesting to note is that the same report refers to a 2022 Glint survey on how having clarity on work priorities is something that most people said they didn’t have. This is important.

The cumulative trend shows that while managers don’t have confidence in employee productivity, there’s an emergent gap between what employees are doing and what the organization wants them to do. Therefore, the management and employees aren’t aligned and end up being unproductive. This is a simple way to pen down a very complex problem within organizations. At Fundamento, we’ve spent some time digging into what drives efficiency within organizations. In this case, we believe that productivity paranoia emerges from a deep need within an organization for critical power skills that help enhance relationships, strengthen trust and deliver tangible results. In order to deep-dive into this, it is crucial to understand that people strategy plays a huge role in driving productivity and is implemented in different ways within every organization.

If organizations are looking at bridging the gap between management and employees, they need to invest in upskilling their teams specifically on power skills that are relevant to building a more efficient internal working system. Based on the different ways in which productivity paranoia manifests, there are power skills we believe that can transform the way an organization achieves its goals.

What are these power skills?

  • Transparency
  • Inspirational Leadership
  • Empathy
  • Developing Others

Some of the most prominent problems that have emerged from existing research on productivity paranoia are lack of clarity on work priorities, low authenticity and deep trust deficit. On the basis of these factors, the Fundamento team dug deeper to develop a skills outline for eliminating productivity paranoia.

Strengthen internal communication

More often than not it has been observed that the root of most internal dissonance is lack of clarity and authenticity between the management and employees. If we double click on productivity paranoia, it stems from a sense of distrust between managers and their team members. This distrust can be addressed by two key skills — Transparency and Inspirational Leadership.

Transparency refers to the ability to maintain honesty, openness, and integrity about emotions, beliefs and ethical principles.

Managers have to ensure that they consciously set the benchmark for open conversations. This begins at the most elementary level of communication:

  • Conveying company policies with clarity and openness
  • Defining work priorities in a detailed manner
  • Setting the right expectations when it comes to work
  • Setting a standard for communication within the team that everyone follows

Inspirational Leadership refers to one’s ability to inspire, influence, and lead by example. This involves creating a shared vision and articulating a mission towards achieving common goals.

It all starts with leadership. Transparency as a power skill is effective in a leadership role only when the leader is also someone who can actively influence and inspire the team positively. Team members often don’t find their managers approachable and most of the recent research on productivity paranoia highlights the absence of this bridge. There are multiple ways in which this plays out at work:

  • Being a positive influence to team members that is exemplary in nature
  • Making room for building relationships within the team that go beyond company goal achievement
  • Developing a sense of shared purpose within the team by communicating the company’s larger mission effectively

Support and mentorship go a long way

At the end of the day, any team member will not feel connected to their manager unless they feel looked after. Today, most organizations know that in order to increase employee productivity and improve retention, they must invest in the growth of their employees. Most importantly, this investment must come from an understanding of each person’s individual needs. There are two power skills that actively accelerate this process and iron any creases that affect efficiency — Empathy and Developing Others.

Empathy is the emotional ability to understand, share and anticipate the feelings of another.

A pillar on which the concept of productivity paranoia holds ground is that employees believe they’re being very productive and managers fail to differentiate between real productivity and “productivity theater”. To bridge this gap, managers need to genuinely be invested in their teams:

  • Taking interest in the team’s well-being
  • Doing regular check-ins with the team
  • Identifying blockers and eliminating any hurdles
  • Managing emotions within the team that might cause friction of any kind

Developing Others is the ability to determine strengths and areas requiring improvement in others and mentoring or coaching them towards enhancing their abilities.

With all the above mentioned power skills, we address the problem of clarity, authenticity and trust. However, this skill particularly aims to address the disconnection that exists between management and employees. It focuses on creating a culture of growth and influence within the organization:

  • Encouraging the team to be accountable for their own development
  • Setting achievable goals and benchmarks for the team to follow
  • Creating an environment of positive feedback and learning
  • Facilitating growth in a manner that taps into every individual’s strengths

Earlier it was quiet quitting, today it’s productivity paranoia, tomorrow it could be another trend that perceives work from a different lens. However, at the core of all these buzzwords are power skills that if developed can overcome these hurdles. Organizations are fast realizing the importance of these power skills in designing people strategy, and people strategy that’s designed on the back of data on skills exceptionally contributes to transforming business.

Fundamento reduces your setup time from months to minutes.

70% faster onboarding than other tools with enterprise-grade security and multilateral data visualization.