In the fascinating book First, Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, the authors discuss their work to describe, among other things, the qualities of the best workplaces, the kinds that attract and retain the most productive employees.

They devised twelve questions. If employees answered “yes” and were happier in their workplaces, they also tended to work in business units with higher levels of productivity, profit, retention, and customer satisfaction. This shows a link between how employees feel and how they perform.

Are you a manager who wants to create a happier and more productive work environment? Are you a job seeker/holder who to know how to size up a workplace? This list can help.

Also, one of my twelve Personal Commandments is to Identify the problem. Often, when we very specifically identify a problem, solutions appear. If you're not happy at work, you can use this list to identify the problem, and then you might be able to think of some steps to take to improve your situation. You can't change your boss, but maybe you could get an equipment upgrade.

1. Do I know what is expected of me at work? 
2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right? 
3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day? 
4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work? 
5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person? 
6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development? 
7. At work, do my opinions seem to count? 
8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel like my work is important? 
9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work? 
10. Do I have a best friend at work? [But don’t have an office affair!]
11. In the last six months, have I talked with someone about my progress? 
12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

According to the authors, the first six questions have the strongest links to business outcomes (productivity, profitability, retention, and customer satisfaction).

I was also interested to see that the study suggested that people’s opinions of their workplaces are more determined by their immediate manager than by the overall company. It was their direct manager – not money, benefits, perks, or a charismatic leader at the top – that was the critical element for people.

Does this list help you understand better what's helpful -- or not -- at your workplace? Can you think of steps to take, to improve your situation?

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