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IN A NO-WIN JOB?
Dr. Beverly Potter
Just as your body needs
and proteins, certain “nutrients” are also essential to sustain high
including getting rewards ? or motivational“wins”? or good work and
that you have control over your work life. In other words, you must
that you can influence what happens to you by what you do.
Motivation is determined
by what happens after you act. For instance, you get a bonus
making a big sale or your boss praises your idea. If your actions bring
no rewards, your motivation to perform lessens or burns out.
work situations similar to the ones below are key contributors to job
The Critical Boss
No matter how hard you try
well you do, you boss always find a nit to pick. Eventually, you feel
to satisfy this kind of boss.
The Incurable Client
If you’re in a service job,
as social work, you probably have a large caseload of clients with
impossible problems. No matter how hard you try, how much you give or
much you care, the drug addicts continue to use drugs, the welfare
can’t get work and the delinquents end up back in juvenile hall.
Lack of Recognition
Your good work often goes
You may be in a civil-service job, where promotions are based on
and not performance. Two other forms of lack of recognition include:
you work hard but feel underpaid, you may think that your efforts
being adequately rewarded.
If you have high aspirations and spent years in college preparing for
but you’re stuck in a low-level job, you may feel that no one has
your talents. Baby boomer who must compete with millions of others to
into a narrowing pyramid of higher-level jobs are particularly prone to
If you don’t know what’s
it is difficult to feel confident that you are doing the right thing in
the right way. Chaotic and ambiguous work situations are common in
expanding high-tech firms. Examples of ambiguity are:
You don’t have enough information to do your job properly. As a result,
you may be working hard on the wrong thing.
Lack of clear goals:
in rapidly expanding organizations, entrepreneurial operations and
managed departments often don’t have well-defined responsibilities and
clear-cut goals. Without clear goals, you have no target to shoot for.
Tasks Without End
Your “in basket” is always
no matter how long or how hard you work, or you face a seemingly
line of customers, who eventually become faceless. This a problem with
any job that has no natural beginning and ending point.
Your job may have
demands so that no matter what you do at work, someone is
you report to two bosses: One wants speed while the other wants
It may not be possible to produce both. Or you may work with several
marketing wants one thing, manufacturing another.
expected to be star employee, supermom and superwife; your company
you to travel for business and your family wants you at home.
Jobs: If you work in a
sensitive field such as police work, IRS investigation or military
you may experience value conflicts: You believe in what you are doing
you strive to do a good job; yet you are criticized for the work you do.
A lot of work in and of
will not burn you out as long as you feel you can control what happens
and you receive adequate wins. You may be very tired, but you feel
However, work overload in one of the above categories is a setup for
Organizations are based on
military model of the hierarchy and chain of command which is desgined
to make sure that no one person has too much power. But having
a sense of control over one's life, is necessary for healthy
Copyright 1980, 1993, 1996:
Potter. From Overcoming Job Burnout: How to Renew Enthusiasm for
Work, by Dr. Beverly Potter, Ronin Publishing. This article may
downloaded for individual personal use, any other use requires written
permission from Beverly Potter. All rights reserved. Box
Oakland, CA 94609, <mailto:email@example.com>, fax:
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