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Why Our Consultants Love Work

Ken Chen

Ken Chen

March 3, 2015

Why Consultants Love WorkA Response to the NY Times Article, “Why You Hate Work

[EXCERPT] The way we’re working isn’t working. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a job, you’re probably not very excited to get to the office in the morning, you don’t feel much appreciated while you’re there, you find it difficult to get your most important work accomplished, amid all the distractions, and you don’t believe that what you’re doing makes much of a difference anyway.

I’ve been there before. I spent over a decade working at big companies like GM, Disney, and Procter & Gamble. I worked at progressive, high-tech companies and startups like Intuit, Homestead and a few others. Usually, somewhere between 18-24 months into every position, I’d get restless, stagnant and sometimes even queasy on Sunday nights thinking about the big week of work ahead.

Workers Are Disengaged

Turns out 70% of workers in the US and 87% of workers around the world feel the same way. That’s an enormous number of people who are not engaged at work and not reaching their potential. Privately, in my un-scientific poll of my clients, colleagues and peers who work as full-time employees in companies, I can tell you the percentage of who are not engaged is higher than 70%. Why is it that so many people I know say their work is “soul-sucking?”

Why Do People Hate Work?

Check out what is missing from the workplace in The Energy Project’s research findings below. At the top of the list of culprits are technology, endless email, meetings, meetings to prep for meetings, office politics and PowerPoint presentations that people slog through everyday.

Source: The Energy Project via "Why You Hate Work," The New York Times, 2014
Source: The Energy Project via “Why You Hate Work,” The New York Times, 2014

In my 12 years of consulting, I haven’t found a single “evil” company. Sometimes, there are misguided, ego-filled, ambitious managers, but the fault doesn’t usually lie with one person or a group of individuals. It’s usually about “growing shareholder value” or “X% year-over-year growth” for which companies strive.

But, corporate growth comes at what cost to people? To you and me? To the world?

An Alternative to the Unfulfilling Workplace

I’m happy to report there is another way for individuals! It is EM Marketing’s mission to help people find this: call it consulting, contracting or freelancing. The name doesn’t really matter. It’s about starting your own business and selling yourself, your time and your skills. We help people transition from full-time work into what I think will be the “Future of Work.”

For those who are skeptical, let’s revisit the top three reasons workers are unfulfilled on the list above and see how being a consultant may address them:

  • Regular time for creative or strategic thinking. We coach our consultants to account for this time and to charge for it. It’s actually the most valuable time they can spend for their clients. In order to make sure they have this time, we tell them to work at home or places that might stimulate more creativity than a cubicle without windows on the third floor of a drab corporate office.
  • Ability to focus on one thing at at time. So often, the distractions of the traditional office place, or having to wear multiple hats in your job, or all those meetings means focusing is an impossible task. We try our best to set up specific projects, milestones, goals and timelines to force focus. It’s the “clean work transaction” I so often talk about.
  • Opportunities to do what is most enjoyed. If you are like most people, what is most enjoyed happens outside of work — spending time with friends and family, traveling, doing hobbies, being outdoors — may come top of mind. These days, a traditional full-time job doesn’t allow for that. Not with 24×7 email and texting. Not with endless meetings. Not with unreasonable growth goals. I believe the only real way to do this is by having a clear contract that stipulates exactly what needs to be delivered and when, otherwise known as consulting.

It’s actually kind of simple. Give people true work-life balance, let them feel rested and appreciated and give them the space to do their best work. I’ll take quality over quantity any day of the week.

4 thoughts on “Why Our Consultants Love Work”

  1. Great post Ken and I coulnd’t agree more about how great consulting is. I also really like the variety vs. the slog. In my past, the work always felt like the “same thing, different day” syndrome with little passion over time. In consulting there is always a new challenge, different client needs, and a way to re-engage excitement or apply my knowledge. In other words, something new all the time that engages my interests and energizes me!

  2. I work with a lot of companies worldwide as well as in the Silicon Valley, and I can tell you that suffering reflected in the employee engagement stats are FOR REAL. People are miserable. Some people have given up making a difference and just settle for making a living. Many people dream of leaving their company and joining a workplace that is life-affirming. Thank you for this reminder that an attractive and supporting company culture is a magnet for terrific people and a true source of competitive advantage!

  3. I concur. Having the ability to make an impact in a variety of organizations and work in what things you need as a person is very fulfilling and I think “micro work” will become a big thing as our economy changes.

  4. So true about “corporate growth at any expense”. In my big companies’ jobs, the CEO and general managers were so focused on quarter-to-quarter revenue that initiatives were biased for short-term profits at the expense of long term customer-oriented initiatives.

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