During a recent early morning yoga class, the instructor admonished the group with five words that have haunted me ever since: “Don’t just audit your practice.” I was guilty as charged… but not just at yoga. How frequently do we audit other dimensions of life – relationships, even work?
In an educational setting, auditing a class involves: signing up to be a passive bystander; being there in body but not having any responsibility to actively contribute; attending generally for the purpose of evaluation and judgment.
How frequently do you find yourself auditing work?
This might be a tough question to answer because auditing behaviors are such a prevalent feature in today’s business landscape. You know you’re auditing if:
- You tend to keep your mouth shut during meetings, reserving your real thoughts for the water cooler. You criticize, second-guess, or even praise – but generally outside of the context where the information can be used constructively.
- You find yourself operating on ‘auto-pilot.’ You frequently default to ‘how we’ve always done things’. You invest energy in figuring out how to apply past practices to current challenges rather than generating unique, creative solutions to today’s problems.
- You prefer to see others as two-dimensional, static characters instead of experiencing them and their ideas as dynamic or surprising. To make life easier, you put people into tidy, predictable boxes… and that’s where they stay.
Auditing in the workplace is a significant danger… to individuals and far beyond.
The threat to the individual
Just going through the motions dulls the mind and spirit. When employees or leaders spend 8 or 10 or 12 hours a day in a disengaged state, they don’t have the opportunity to experience the sense of competence and connection that research has proven we all need from our work. They don’t enjoy the rush associated with coming up with creative ideas, the exhilaration of trying something new, or even the satisfaction of learning that come from mistakes and failure.
But the danger extends beyond the workplace. We bring the ‘home’ self to work and the ‘work’ self home. It’s impossible to spend the bulk of one’s waking time disengaged on the job, then kick it into high gear and become active participants at home or in the community. Auditing work can dull the experience and joy of life on a broader scale.
The threat to the organization and our economy
Organizations suffer everyday as a result of employees and leaders making the choice to audit rather than actively engage. Every dimension of business is affected:
- Products don’t benefit from the best, most innovative or creative thinking.
- Customers don’t enjoy genuinely caring relationships with employees.
- Process improvements lag behind competitors.
- Sales and service suffer.
- And the list goes on…
If that’s not bad enough, all of the ills that befall organizations as a result of employees auditing their work also contribute to a larger national problem. Lackluster productivity. Loss of ‘cutting edge’ status. Inability to compete with global competitors… whose employees are viscerally engaged, completely present, and actively contributing.
Remaining vital as an individual, organization, or national economy requires that we put an end to auditing on the job. Check in next week for part 2 of this post, The Antidote to Auditing.
What about you? Are you auditing work? What’s suffering as a result? What could you do instead?