Screw Employee Satisfaction – Gimme The Bad Boys and Girls

Paul Hebert Audacious Ideas, Change, Culture, Employment Branding and Culture, Engagement and Satisfaction, Innovation, Paul Hebert, Performance

Mad Men Season 5 started this past week.

Full disclosure, before this past week’s episode, I’ve watched a total of 6 minutes of Mad Men.  But the hype was too much for me to bear, so I DVR’d it and sat and watched it the other night.  It’s awright.

But… I liked it a lot more when I heard this line…

“Dissatisfaction is a symptom of ambition. It’s the coal that fuels the fire.”

I heard that, rewound it and listened again.  Then paused the episode while I thought about the line and if, and how, it might apply to a post on FOT.  (I know – I lead a charmed, interesting life.)

But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it and the more I figured there was a lesson in it.

And here’s the lesson IMHO.

If you work too hard to make every employee happy and satisfied, you create a group of people who never want anything to change.

Sated – Satisfied – Happy – Stagnant?

While I might reword the quote and say “dissatisfaction is a symptom of engagement” – conceptually it is the same.

When we are satisfied and happy, we want that feeling to continue.  We will work hard to maintain that status quo.  Why do anything that might upset the apple cart?  If we start thinking about new ways and creating new businesses, new ideas, new markets – that could change things and that could lead to changes in the organization and then… bam… I’m unhappy with the change.  And that is just crazy talk.

Let’s all just calm down and make sure nothing changes.

Give Me Your Poor, Your Tired, Your Huddled Masses Yearning to Kick Butt

Give me a group of people unhappy with the way things are and we’ll kick those “happy” employees all the way to the winners’ circle.

Give me employees who want things to change – want new ideas, new markets, new applications.  Give me people who thrive on the new and the different and enjoy the uneasy feeling of teetering between loving something they have and the promise of something new.  That’s energy folks.

Those are the people who are dissatisfied and those are the people I want to work with.

Give me the results of the employee engagement survey and I’ll take the bottom third on my team.  That’s the group with the most to win if things change and the least to lose if things stay the same.

I want the dissatisfied.

What do you think?  Is satisfaction the sure road to mediocrity?

Is satisfaction a bad thing for today’s company where change outside the walls of the firm is constant and quick?  Do I want people who are satisfied or do I want people with a real desire, a real need to see things change.

Where else have I heard that kinda talk… oh, yeah… at the entrance of New York Harbor…

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Yeah – send us those who are dissatisfied and we’ll create something pretty darn cool.