Use the psychology of the workplace

Think about your own most recent day at the office, and try to recall it in some detail. What would hidden observers have been able to learn had they been watching you go through that day? They might have read e-mails you composed, looked over the numbers you put into spreadsheets, reviewed the reports you prepared. They would have noted your interactions, in formal meetings or corridor encounters, with colleagues, subordinates and superiors, and listened in on a presentation you delivered. They would have heard your end of various telephone conversations, perhaps with customers, suppliers, or consultants. Maybe they would have watched you sitting quietly for a while, looking off into space, jotting down a few notes.

But would these observers really understand your inner work life that day? Of course not. In having those conversations and writing those reports, you were not only dealing with the task at hand. As events unfolded, you were also forming and adjusting perceptions about the people you work with, the organisation you are part of, the work you do, and even yourself. You were experiencing emotions, maybe mild states of satisfaction or irritation, maybe intense feelings of pride or frustration. And these perceptions and emotions were intertwining to affect your work motivation from moment to moment—with consequences for your performance that day.

People experience a constant stream of emotions, perceptions, and motivations as they react to and make sense of the events of the workday. As people arrive at their workplaces they don’t leave their hearts and minds at the door. Unfortunately, because inner work life is seldom openly expressed in modern organisations, it’s all too easy for managers to pretend that private thoughts and feelings don’t matter.

This is what the researchers mean by inner work life: the dynamic interplay among personal perceptions, ranging from immediate impressions to more fully developed theories about what is happening and what it means; emotions, whether sharply defined reactions (such as elation over a particular success or anger over a particular obstacle) or more general feeling states, like good and bad moods; and motivation—your grasp of what needs to be done and your drive to do it at any given moment. Inner work life is crucial to a person’s experience of the workday but for the most part is imperceptible to others. Indeed, it goes largely unexamined even by the individual experiencing it.

People perform better when they are positive about their work. This comes about “when they see their organisations and leaders as collaborative, cooperative, open to new ideas, able to evaluate and develop new ideas fairly, clearly focused on an innovative vision, and willing to reward creative work.”

The most important factor in satisfaction, and therefore motivation, is knowing that one is productive in one’s work. This takes clear and connected goals and feedback on progress. Next in importance is being treated decently as human beings.

The value created by knowledge workers in particular is heavily influenced by the emotions swirling around in knowledge workers’ heads. This will not be news to those of us who’ve seen productivity plummet when we encountered stress, depression, or low self esteem.

Peter Drucker, in a 2002 Harvard Business Review article They’re Not Employees, They’re People, wrote, “Knowledge workers are not labour. They are capital. And what is decisive in the performance of capital is not what capital costs. What’s critical is the productivity of capital.”

The Perendie platform® uses the psychology of the workplace to increase productivity.