Common Causes of Unproductive Organizations

Common Causes of Unproductive Organizations


There are many who lay blame for the lack of productivity in an organization at the feet of either the employees or the managers. Some say that if workers only did what they were told, goals would be met. Others insist that if managers actually led, then employees would gladly follow; but because those in charge don’t seem to know where they’re going, nearly everyone drifts instead.

The truth is that both are responsible. Together they are either productive or unproductive. It’s not down to one or the other.

In this article, you’ll learn five ways in which you can work together in order to overcome some of the most common causes of unproductive organizations.

No big picture

The first thing you need to do, whether you’re a manager or an employee is to make sure that you know what the big picture is.

What is the goal of the organization? Who are your customers? And by the way, the answer is not the shareholders; as if that somehow excludes everyone else. Broadly, the goal is to serve customers; but who are they? They include shareholders, but are not limited to them. They also include your suppliers, and everyone who works within the organization. That means that you’re a customer, too. 

Lack of personal value

A loss in the feeling of personal value comes from the impersonal nature of organizations. It’s essential therefore, that you and everyone else understand the value that each of you contributes. In other words, you need to know that what you do is important.

If you’re a manager, then you have to make sure that those in your charge understand this, too. You can check your attitude by asking this question: “How would my organization be harmed if this person didn’t work here?” If your answer is, “It doesn’t matter because there are plenty of other people who would love to have this job”, then you have a big problem. What you’re really saying is that, as far as you’re concerned, the people who work for you are valueless. And guess what? They will pick that up from you.

If you don’t supervise anyone, then you need to find out from someone who understands these things show what you do delivers value to the organization. That’s because it will give you purpose and it will give you something to aim for, a target – the goal of delivering even more of what you now understand you are there to contribute. If you feel that what you do doesn’t matter, then you will become demotivated and your performance will go down . . . and down, and down. If, however, you know how valuable you are, then you will be motivated to do more. The more value you create and contribute, the more valuable you’ll become, and the more motivated you will be. 


In your organization, what criteria constitute the bare minimum to get an interview? A degree? Specialist skills? A certain number of years of experience?

Now compare the requirements of the job to the level of autonomy you give to the successful candidate. If you’re going to err, then do so on the side of giving too much, rather than too little. You want people to focus on the job at hand; not the hot air of the person breathing down their neck.

Micromanagers are lousy at delegation. They feel that no one can do the job as well as they can. Even if that was true, neither you nor anyone else has the time to do it all. And that means that you have to give some of that work to others. Think of it this way. If you could do everything, then you’d be a one-man-band. As soon as you hired someone, you admitted that he / she either had a skill that you lacked or the time to do something that you didn’t. Why then would you hover over that person? Leave him / her alone to get on with it. You have enough to do, remember?

How do you work together on this? If you’re a supervisor, then ask the person in your charge if he / she understands what to do. If the answer is “Yes”, then go back to your own job. If it is “No”, then continue working with the person until it’s “Yes”. 

If you’re the one being supervised, then be sure that your boss knows that you understand what to do. You don’t have to be impolite about it; but you do need to make it clear that you prefer autonomy. In other words, you don’t want to encourage the micromanagement that you’re being subjected to. 

Lack of communication

A lack of communication between staff and managers, or managers and staff repeatedly comes up in organizational studies. Fundamentally, the problem is that we’ve all forgotten what it means to listen. Are you a good listener, or do you interrupt, talk over the top of others, and finish their sentences for them?

Most people don’t listen. Instead they’re busy thinking about what they’re going to say next, whether the person pauses for breath or not.

Regardless of your position, you can become a better listener by listening. Learn to keep quiet while the other person is talking. Make notes if you find that helpful. It will tell the other person that you are listening and chances are that you’ll then be given the floor at some point.

And listening implies that you’ll take into consideration the opinions of others. It means that you won’t simply nod your head and then carry on as if no one said anything. The evidence that any message has been communicated is reflected in the behaviour that it produces. If there’s no change in behaviour, then communication is deemed to have not taken place. It’s why managers don’t think their employees have listened, and why employees feel that their organizations have no respect for them. Neither does anything differently as a result of what passed for communication.

Whether you agree or disagree with what has been said, you need to say something. If it’s the former, then you’ll behave in one way. If it’s the latter, then it will be in another. But you must speak up at the proper time. 

Inappropriate dress

In the past several years, the standard of dress in public has declined markedly. Clothing that was once considered underwear is now outerwear. That which can’t be hidden is left for all to see. It’s even become fashionable for some to see how low they can “wear” their trousers without them falling down altogether.

The fact is that it doesn’t matter what society does. It makes no difference whatsoever what is considered fashionable. You must be professional at all times.

Women, unfortunately, create problems for themselves in this respect. Hardly any of them have the least idea of how much of themselves they expose inadvertently. Summer especially can be a nightmare for them.

If you’re a woman, your last port of call before heading out the door should not be the mirror. Instead you should bend over as if you’re looking in the bottom filing cabinet drawer. Now evaluate your appearance. Does the front of your dress flop open for all the world to see?

Next thing: sit in a chair and cross your legs. If you find that you have to tug your skirt down, then it’s too short. It doesn’t matter how it looks when you’re standing.

You may not realize this, but sexy attire makes you look less competent. That’s because it suggests that you’re trying to draw attention to yourself for reasons other than the quality of your work. 

Men can’t escape appropriate dress either. Make sure that your shoes are polished and buffed. It’s a tiny detail, but when you neglect your footwear, it makes it look as though you aren’t concerned with the little things. If you can’t be trusted with them, then who will give you responsibility for greater things?

Whether you’re a man or woman, if you aren’t sure of what to wear, then look at the most successful and respected people in your company or your section. Then copy them. 

How can you work together on this? This is a delicate subject. Senior women need to look after junior women; and senior men need to coach junior men. You’ll get yourself into all sorts of trouble if you, as a man, however, try to tell a woman that her style of dress is inappropriate for the reasons mentioned.

If you have a predominantly male office and only one or two women who dress inappropriately, then send them on a course or get them some professional coaching. Again. You will have to be careful; but the people who do this sort of thing for a living will be able to advise you on how best to handle it. 

Perhaps you’re wondering how inappropriate dress can lower productivity. It can do it in two ways. One is obvious. When your eye is being drawn repeatedly away from your work, then you can’t concentrate on what you’re there to do in the first place. The second reason, however, is not so obvious. Studies have shown that our attitude is also affected by the way we dress. If we appear to be slovenly, then we also tend to act that way. This is noticeable even among school children.

Remember that productivity in your job is largely down to you. You need to understand the big picture, the part you play in helping your organization reach its goals, you need to function autonomously and learn to listen, and you must dress appropriately. Taken together, all of these things will help both you and your organization to be more productive.


If you want to know more about productivity – contact us here

Leave a comment...

If you found value in this blog you might also be interested in one or more of theseā€¦

Are your staff too tired to work

A outline of some of the research on workplace tiredness and the implications on productivity.

Who is who..?

A lighthearted look at personality with a serious message on effectiveness