My workplace feels like Groundhog Day…

What movie title best describes your workplace?

We could go many different directions with this question…horror, drama, comedy, suspense.  But sadly, many organizations resemble a movie from the 1990’s that while very much a comedy, has some take-aways that may not be so funny.

Do you remember this movie?

Groundhog Day is a 1993 American comedy film starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.   Murray plays Phil Connors, an egocentric Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during a hated assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, finds himself repeating the same day over and over again. After many twists and turns, he begins to reexamine his life and priorities.

In the movie, Phil wakes up to find that he is reliving February 2. The day plays out exactly as it did before, with no one else aware of the time loop.

Does this scenario ever describe your workplace?  “We’ve been here before.”  “This situation feels a little déjà vu.”  Have you ever said these phrases at work?

This is actually a very real scenario for many organizations.  However, the movie doesn’t end.  We “re-live” situations at work that seem to never go away.

We’ve all been there.  So why is it that some organizations suffer from this frustrating reality?  Consider these three reasons:

Leaders are indecisive.
When a clear vision or goal is not in place, it creates the opportunity to consider and pursue many options.  How does that play out?  Teams pursue competing priorities.  Group A doesn’t really know what Group B is doing which creates possible redundancy.  Frustration becomes the normal frustration and each week begins to feel the same way.

In contrast, when leaders are decisive, employees know how their efforts link to the broader business goals.  The content of meetings shows progress.  And departments talk to one another to ensure progress is being made.

Real problems are never solved.
All organizations have conflict from time to time; it’s a fact of life.  The difference is how effective organizations address those conflicts.  So often, we fall short of identifying the root of a problem.  Instead, we address the symptoms of the problem which means it will more than likely resurface again.

We’ve all seen it.  An underperformer is told to improve his performance and he does – just enough to stay under the radar.  But in time, performance lags again.  And this cycle repeats itself over and over.  The result?  Employees see this reality and observe how nothing ever improves.  It becomes the “same old, same old” scene.

Critical thinking is lacking.
Critical thinking is skill anyone in the organization can possess and it is a secret weapon for organizations that succeed.  A critical thinker is inquisitive at heart.  She is not afraid to question the status quo and embrace the question “why”.  The key is how we (leaders) respond to those questions:

  • Why haven’t we made a decision?
  • How will we know we are successful?
  • Who owns this task?
  • What are our criteria of success?
  • How will we hold each other accountable?

These questions force movement and progress.  And in turn, they keep the organization moving forward.  But these questions threaten a weak leader (and organization) and are not answered.  The result is an organization that repeats its ineffectiveness.

Phil (Bill Murray’s movie character) finally gets it and is able to experience a new day (and of course, we get our happy movie ending).  We live in the real world.  But if you feel like Phil, I hope your organization can do the same.

3 thoughts on “My workplace feels like Groundhog Day…

  1. Good stuff Kayla!

    These are lessons in Leadership from John Maxwell learned from Haggai that, unless heeded, perpetuate Groundhog days in our lives.

    * If you forget the ultimate, you will become a slave to the immediate.
    * Activity does not always mean accomplishment.
    * The issue is not,”Will my calender be full?” but, What will fill my calender?”
    * If I don’t evaluate, I will stagnate.
    * Priorities are a matter of both perception and practice; I must know AND do them.

    1. Excellent points Dad. These principles really do apply across the board – whether in the corporate world or the ministry environment. Many people become frustrated when they can’t see progress and seem to deal with the same issues over and over. I love Maxwell’s insights. Thanks for the comment.

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