Under- or Over-worked? Employers and Employees Must Take Action

When employees don’t feel like their abilities are being used to their full potential, work is “frustrating” and “exhausting,” according to a study that asked subordinates to rate the percentage of their intelligence they felt their higher-ups were tapping into. These questions lead to researchers defining two types of leaders in the workplace:

    1. “Diminishers”: A leader who is set on their own ideas and doesn’t use the intelligence from their staff to expand on ideas.
    2. “Multipliers”: A leader who uses and amplifies the intelligence around them.

In her article, “Smart Leaders Get More Out of the Employees They Have,” Liz Wiseman explains leaders identified as “diminishers” were rated as only using 48% of an employee’s intellectual capability. “Multipliers” were reported as using 95% of their intellectual capability. Data from this study, along with additional research after publication, found employers are only using 66% of their employees’ capability.

“[Companies] spend their time and money ‘grocery shopping’ for talent,” says Wiseman, “when they can simply look inside the already well-stocked refrigerator.”

Leader is a verb not a noun. An effective leader is one who can stand at the helm, while also taking full advantage of the crew’s individual talents. However, employees also have the responsibility to show their strengths to their employers and vocalize that they have unused talents.

Recently, in his article “Youth Unemployment: Is It the Bad Economy or Inability to Overcome Adversity,” Don McNay poses a relationship between today’s high youth unemployment rate and the lack of ambition and tenacity he’s seen firsthand from youth. He tells the story of one young person he knows who looked for a job for several months, then without any offers, gave up and started working in fast food. Another young person he knows seems to be waiting at his mom’s house for someone to come by with a job offer.

McNay reminisces about  leaving grad school and working for a candidate in Congress directly out of school. However, the candidate lost and McNay was on the street. His next job was on the cleanup crew at the Kentucky Horse Park. The experience showed him he needed more stability and to be his own boss, and illuminated his ample supply of tenacity and ambition. “If young people have been sheltered from overcoming failure, they may not understand that adversity ultimately leads to opportunity,” he says.

Yes, the unemployment rates are real and they are tragic. But progress takes action. Employers can work with the employees they have and employees can show their employers they are underused. If employees or employers feel stuck with what they have, they need to take action. Become the verb and not the noun.



“Smart Leaders Get More Out of the Employees They Have,” by Liz Wiseman. 20 August 2012. Harvard Business Review. Accessed on 22 August 2012. http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/08/smart_leaders_get_more_out_of.html

“Youth Unemployment: Is It the Bad Economy or Inability to Overcome Adversity?” by Don McNay. 18 August 2012. The Huffington Post. Accessed on 22 August 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/don-mcnay/youth-unemployment_b_1803153.html

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