Todd Sinks

“Half of all Americans today say they are satisfied with their jobs, down from nearly 60 percent in 1995. But among the 50 percent who say they are content, only 14 percent say they are ‘very satisfied.”
Todd Sinks
In: Column, Culture

November 2, 2006

In 2005, the Conference Board, a preeminent business membership and research organization, reported: “Half of all Americans today say they are satisfied with their jobs, down from nearly 60 percent in 1995. But among the 50 percent who say they are content, only 14 percent say they are ‘very satisfied.” Employees stuck in a go-nowhere job may feel like they are drowning. It reminds me of a story about Todd, the seaman:

One night, in the midst of a black, cold, churning sea, the Panamanian freighter, Conch-The Other Pink Meat, struggles through the wet peaks and smashes headlong into water valleys. Waves crash and foam over the bow. Todd, a reliable, seasoned crew member, dashes toward his post only to be swept away by a frothy, black wave. His screams are snatched away by the howling gale. For a time, Todd struggles valiantly: tossed deep into a watery hole, thrashing to the surface, gulping air, choking, spluttering, gagging, thrust to a peak only to be hurled deeper. Soon his strength is gone. Todd gives up, and another life with sails yet unfurled slips into the ebony abyss with barely a sigh.

Todd never knew darkness could be so foreboding, so crushing. He waves his arms over his head with a weak stroke. Looking up, his barely conscious mind registers surprise at the phosphorescent light show from the dancing microscopic zooplankton. “Light, shining, PowerPoint!” he thought. Suddenly Todd remembered the crew meeting in the officer’s galley. “Of course,” he gurgled, “The handout; I’m saved!” Reaching deep into that hidden reservoir reserved for life-and-death moments, Todd summons his last ounce of strength and fishes the white slip of paper from his front right jeans’ pocket as he gently sinks into the dark, lonely sea.

In an instant, Todd is transported miraculously in “beam-me-up-Scotty” fashion.

Suddenly he is lying in a pool of water on the galley floor with his mates staring down at him. He says, “I was tossed out, sinking, in despair, frightened and angry at the same time. I knew it was all over, and nothing was left for me. Then I remembered the Human Resources meeting today and knew everything would be okay. This handout from corporate saved me.”

With that, Todd flicks his wrist and opens his hand. The white paper rolls onto the deck. A sailor reaches down, picks up the handout, unfolds the paper, and reads in hushed tones, “People are our most important asset.”

If you believe this story, you’ll believe high-performance teams are fashioned out of platitudes and posters featuring people in tailored business suits rowing in a skiff.

Do other findings from the survey describe your workplace?

· 40% of workers feel disconnected from their employers.

· Two out of every three workers do not identify with or feel motivated to drive their employer's business goals and objectives.

· 25% of employees are just “showing up to collect a paycheck.”

If so, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and begin the long, demanding process of creating a high-performance culture. Or you can hope for a magic handout.

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