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Optimal Work – Can you do it in a Sub-Optimal Environment?

In these challenging times, HR is continually driven to deliver exceptional results.  This is expected, despite increased output demands, an uncertain business climate, staff shortages, calls for improved transactional efficiency, mergers and acquisitions, business units that come and go, shifting priorities and expectations of greater transparency. How is this possible? Hey there! Let’s be completely honest with one another: it isn’t! That’s not so easy for most of us to admit but we just did. Feeling better yet? Keep reading my friend!

As professionals we want to do optimal work all the time. Our reputations depend on our work being timely, relevant and on point. With the wisdom of work experience though also comes the realization that delivering these results and executing optimal work are not necessarily interchangeable. Our best work may not ever occur at a specific organization precisely because we need to meet the needs of the business. Some explanations for why this is:

  • the business wants simple not “corporate” aka Dumbing down;
  • the last time your comprehensive and completely-aligned-to-the-strategic-plan work was approved your management failed to support it aka We don’t walk the talk around here. Shhhh!!!;
  • you did the best with the little time you were provided aka The dry cleaners lost your Wonder Woman outfit – again;
  • it is consistent with the tone and complexity of earlier work – aka proportionality and status quo no matter what;
  • further changes are coming and you need to leave wiggle room to maintain management’s credibility aka How many politicians are on the payroll?;
  • this is all about optics and not substance aka It’s all about looking good;
  • it’s an annual ritual to do this aka HR by auto pilot;
  • although it has completely lost its relevance with employees at least one senior person feels passionately about keeping up the tradition aka Anyone seen Fred and Barney around?; and
  • you’ve decided it is absolutely hopeless and a waste of time to do optimal work aka Career suicide!

I would argue that the work we do is rarely optimal because we define that standard for ourselves. We are keenly aware of what our very best effort looks like, what it takes to deliver it and want to perform at that level. As true Business Partners though, it isn’t about us. It is actually about us – as in all of us, and how what we do meets the needs of the business. Is it always good enough? Well probably not for you and I, but if it is keeping the operations humming along and averting more problems than are being created then it really IS optimal.

A sub-optimal environment is really just your judgement and interpretation of where you work. I invite you to get off it and continue to push for better without damaging your attitude, enthusiasm and respect levels.

Can you do optimal work in a sub-optimal environment? Yup! You already do!

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