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Bad At Your Job? Maybe It's the Job’s Fault
16.10.2019 00:00

A poorly designed job can work against even the most dedicated employee, setting the person up to fail. Robert Simons explains how to gauge whether an employee's position offers the right mix of organizational support and responsibility.

When a worker struggles to meet the demands of a particular position, the problem may not be with the employee—maybe it’s the job’s design that is wrong.

A poorly designed job can work against even the most dedicated employee, setting the person up to fail. This creates a recipe for frustration and a path to burnout that is all too common in today’s workplace, says Robert Simons, the Charles M. Williams Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

“Today’s jobs are expanding in terms of what is expected of people, but the resources people get to do those jobs is not expanding,” says Simons. “People feel more pressure to own their roles and they’re stressed because they’re being pulled in a lot of different directions, but they’re not getting the help they need.”

The idea that an employee’s poor performance might be a case of a badly designed job is not intuitive for managers. So Simons created a solution: a free online job design optimization tool that allows companies to plug in information about a particular job to test whether the person in that role is getting the right mix of responsibility and support from the organization.

After all, for any job to succeed, the supply of resources available to the worker must be in balance with the responsibilities of the job, says Simons. It’s a simple supply-and-demand lesson that should ring true for anyone who has taken an economics course, “but we’ve never thought of it in terms of a job design before.”

http://hbswk.hbs.edu/