It is now December 2023 and the PVV is trying to form a right-wing cabinet in The Netherlands. After 13 years of VVD, we have come to a point where we have entered a world that is driven by money and economy. Market forces and neoliberalism predominate.
For me as an economics teacher, this is of course very understandable. Economic thinking in itself is not wrong. But if that’s the only thing that’s being looked at, then we may not see everything. Not everything can be approached from that principle.
If we look at the state of our country, we are richer than ever. For many people, the sun is shining. But not for everyone. People are now more likely to be lonely, depressed or unhappy (Also read the previous theme: mental health).
We see strange excesses emerging. Think of hospitals that can go bankrupt, schools that fight each other for every student, people who live in poverty or people who drop out. Many people experience first-hand that the current social system has gaps. What they fall through and for which there is no solution.
The excessive market thinking is also present in the public sector. In healthcare or education, we have started to focus very much on results and less on the most important thing: the person or the child itself.
I think it is good not to confuse well-being and prosperity. The fact that you perform well, are successful, or have a lot of money says nothing about your well-being. Are you happy, do you have friends, do you feel loved, these are values that may be more important than money.
At the organizational level, it’s not much different in some organizations. Holding people accountable for the results achieved has become leading. The colleagues who easily pass the CSFs (critical success factors) are closer to promotion, appreciation, bonuses or recognition than colleagues who do not.
I myself have worked at two companies that worked in this way. I had the feeling that staff was mainly a cost item. That had to be used as efficiently as possible. Where performance and hard work were leading. Themes such as: being kind, involvement and human scale received hardly any attention. People were mainly judged on their production results.
The result was an outflow of staff, a lot of illness and many people with burnout-like complaints.
Is your organization also in this group or is your organization starting to show traits that resemble this? Perhaps it is good to think seriously about this.
Most people don’t keep up performing under pressure for very long. And although there is a lot to be said for deploying staff efficiently and effectively, it is good to take a critical look at it.
As far as I am concerned, there are three themes that are worth considering. Namely:
Although at first glance it seems smart to have staff work hard, there can certainly be disadvantages to this. Rewarding and steering based on performance is an external motivator, whether that’s rewarding or encouraging. This works for a maximum of 2 to 3 months and then the stimulus wears off.
You also have to make sure that there is no undercurrent here. Most people are not crazy and can see how the hares run. Within a team, there are always people who are very prominent. In 9 out of 10 cases, these people are mainly concerned with themselves and less with the organization as a whole.
Because this printing can only be sustained to a limited extent, you can ask the question whether this entire system is sustainable. Especially for the people who cannot keep this up, a form of numbness, indifference or loss of feeling can arise in the organization. It could well be that the turnover and sick leave among the staff will become so high that it will be counterproductive.
A person also needs more values than just performance. A more complete approach also includes valuing other (softer) themes. Man is not a robot but someone who also has social needs.
I think it’s good to explore these themes, together, and think about what a good approach for your organization is. It’s also good to think about which people you need. A good team consists of more than just performance-oriented people.
A culture in which everyone is seen will cause less illness and burnout in the long run.
In that respect, it is good to develop a holistic view of the organization. It’s not just the extroverted, loud initiators who make up the organization. The introverted accountant, the quiet concierge and the contemplative colleagues from the maintenance department are also important.
Everyone together forms the organization.
Focusing less on performance alone is not enough to prevent burnout. It is also necessary to see all employees for their contribution to the organization.
Growing into a more complete organization now may require investments that will be repaid in the longer term. Add to that the fact that your staff is happier and enjoys coming to work more, and you’ve created an environment where it’s nice to be.
I think this will be an organization that employs healthy (internally motivated) employees in the long term.
Changing to a more complete organization will pay off in the short term. People feel seen, valued, and internally motivated.
The confidence that burnout is less common as a result seems clear to me. People are seen for what they, as human beings, are worth and less for what they achieve.
Focusing solely on results is a thing of the past. This seems best in the short term but can cause (mental) problems in the long term.
At the companies I’ve worked for, a change of culture would make a big difference. Less focused on performance and more on the total person.
Try to set up the organization in such a way that other values are also seen and rewarded. Then the number of burnout reports will be a lot less.