Posted by: dubaibizniz | May 5, 2008

Balancing efficiency and happiness

I thought both are one and the same. If you are efficient, then you would be happy. It made sense to me. Unfortunately, real experience tells me otherwise. The first impression people have when they walk into my office is awe. No, not the great design. It is the fact that everyone is completely involved in whatever task they are doing, 100% concentration. You don’t hear office chit-chat.. you don’t hear anything but keyboards tapped and mouse-buttons clicking.

I run my company like a factory. General Ford would be proud. Coming from a technology background, I utilize technology to its maximum potential. Every second is accounted for. Whenever we see a problem, it is analyzed and measured to the second. Oh no, I don’t exaggerate. This is the only way I can compete. My competitors have more human resources and money than I can compete with. I have no choice but to be extremely efficient.

Efficiency comes at a price. General employee happiness is low. It would be unfair to blame efficiency alone. My management style is very aggressive and tough. I’m the type of manager would will blow up in your face. I hate doing it, but I do it nevertheless. I tried to tone myself down several times, but I can’t seem to find the right balance to keep me cool. Anything that upsets my perfectly oiled time machine upsets me visibly. As long as things are going as I had planned, everything is okay.

I don’t necessarily go out of my way to complement staff on doing a good job. In my view, they should always do a good job. That’s what I’m paying them for. It is an obviously flawed view. I disagree with it, but I know that in the back of my mind, that’s how I act. Partly, it has been my upbringing where praise and complements were not common. I don’t expect it from people and neither do I give it out easily. I don’t think much about it really.

The fact that my receptionist quit because of my style has been a serious wake up call for me. Granted, receptionists are a dime a dozen. Big deal. But the fact that I have caused a person to simply quit their job has affected me far more deeply than I thought.

So, I decided to start introducing small changes to the office environment. For starters, Thursdays are going to be designated for donuts/coffee/tea/mankeesh/whatever. Let everyone take a break and eat a bit, socialize a bit..

I can’t make a 180 degree turn, so it will have to be in baby steps. I don’t want to lose my staff. I know I have made them the most efficient (and from what I’ve seen from other companies, I am sure they would rank substantially high).. now it’s time to make them happy as well.



  1. Off topic, but I came here to thank you for your kind comments on The Emirates’ Economist blog re my UAE Comm Blog post on the camel jockeys.

    Thank you – it’s lovely to get some feedback!

  2. And on topic – don’t forget to thank your staff at the end of each day as you say goodbye to them. A thank you at the end of the day is a nice way for them to leave for home – especially if you can include mention of a task that they handled particularly well that day.

    It is a fine balance to manage staff – but you’ll find that a little recognition for jobs well done every now and then goes a long way to creating a happy work environment.

    Regular (quarterly) one-on-one appraisals to discuss what’s working (as well as what’s not) also help. It keeps people focussed on what they should be doing and what your expectations are of them – because you’re telling them so. And it’s also important for you to ask for feedback on YOUR performance – what could you be doing to make their jobs easier/better? Appraisals work better if the conversation is a 2-way channel.

    All the best with your new regime!

  3. Love your blog. Really informative.


  4. nzm, thanks! It’s very difficult to switch gears and become mr. caring overnight. I am just not perceived that way, despite myself actually appreciating them more than they think.

    I finally introduced health insurance. I’m very happy about that.

    Let’s see how it goes.

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