Every job contains some unglamorous grunt work, right?
Not every part of a job is all fun and games. While we all want to find a level of meaning and purpose in our work, we know that a fraction of our time has to be spent doing things we would class as boring,
serving no deeper purpose than helping to keep the workplace running smoothly and looked after.
This can be extremely difficult for professionals who are starting their first careers or for those starting a brand-new job, especially for those in entry level positions. College is often known to be challenging but flexible at the same time, so to go from 4 years of that to sitting in an office, hours at a time, it can be quite challenging and become testing for many. You may even find yourself thinking “I studied a degree for this?!”. It’s not just graduates who have to deal with the struggle of grunt work; many people think that at such a high level of qualification, you shouldn’t have to deal with the grunt work and it should be passed below you for it to become someone else’s problem.
If someone you manage has a problem with the amount of grunt work that they have to deal with, or even feels the slightest bit unhappy about doing this, as a manager, help that person overcome their frustration and explain that it’s not just them dealing with this. Everyone in the same room and anyone else in the same job will be dealing with their own grunt work. It may come across that some people have it easier than others, however, this is not always the case; it could just be that they manage their workload differently. Ensure that they are managing tasks effectively so that they don’t find themselves doing the least exciting stuff more than the fun stuff. If it’s managed correctly, they will find it more effective in their day to day structure. (For the purposes of this article, this is from a manager’s point of view, assuming that all tasks have been assigned fairly and that the person in question hasn’t been dished out all of the grunt work).
Here are a few things I can suggest to help reduce the time being spent on grunt work:
Time restrictions: If you find that your employee is filling their days with the grunt work and low level tasks that are taking longer than they should be, then put a system in place where everyone has the same rule in ways that at certain times throughout the day, they have to focus their time on one specific thing whether that would be returning phone calls, replying to emails or even catching up on something that needs to be done for the following day. An example of this is putting time slots in place. For example, 10:00am – 11:00am replying to emails, then perhaps having an hour at the end of the day where they have to write a to do list for the following day. These are just examples that I think would work for my team members; this may differ depending what exactly your job role is.
Time management is a skill that takes time to learn. It may be in some cases that you are being the teacher. Expect some backchat because it’s more than likely that the employee will always say that they can’t do something in X amount of time, so always make sure you are pushing that person, trying to encourage them to work extra hard to try and get things done. (For more information on managing time effectively, visit our blog in the link below)
Temptation: What are more interesting work tasks that the employee could be doing? What do you see them doing for the business in 2 years’ time? Have the conversation they are waiting for; express the potential they have right in front of them if they continue with the hard work. Explain how much more exciting their day to day tasks can become and the new opportunities that could be coming their way. One way to encourage them even more would be to perhaps sit them next to someone more experienced and mature and they can then learn from them.
Positivity: Remind them that positivity in itself is promotable. When you hire or promote someone, it’s because you believe that they have the potential to complete tasks for your organisation. Also, you want to employ people who have positive energy and drive about them; someone who will be there to do what needs to be done and who will help out at all times they can. Sometimes, taking care of the grunt work shows that you are a professional team player with a fantastic attitude. If you can be trusted doing the rubbish jobs, you can certainly be trusted doing the more fun exciting jobs. Give that constant reminder that it’s not about what you are doing, it’s about how you are going about doing it.
Model the expected: Is your work known as being invisible to some people? We know what we are working on but does everyone else? In most cases, when an employee is complaining about the grunt work they have to do, it’s probably because they don’t see exactly how much other people have to do, including their boss. Make the work you are doing more visible. Let everyone else see that you at times are doing the grunt work and it’s something that you are often doing. Be more open with the people who work around you. Show them what you are working on or talk to them about things that you have on your to do list so that they have more of an understanding of your workload.
Perhaps, in a scenario like this, you may feel as though you are not the manager but you are more like the employee; these techniques will work for you too. Outline your own objectives and practise the discipline to achieve them. Establish time limits for unpleasant tasks. Also, recognise that this is an opportunity to shine. Inexperience has the advantage of fresh eyes. If some of your work is too time-consuming, try to innovate a more efficient process that hasn’t yet occurred to your boss or co-workers. When it comes to battling entitlement, good self-management is the most powerful weapon of all.