Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

What Is Going On Around Here?


What is going on around here???

In your work place do you often hear that good work can’t be done or done on time because everyone is too busy? Do you notice recurring problems related to quality or quantity of work or the interactions between employees? Does everything seem to be a disorganized mess and it’s not because of creative productivity it’s because things are a disorganized mess? Do you often think that few things get done efficiently and effectively–they only get done painfully and with one crisis after another?  Conduct a work audit and find out what is going on.

You can apply this same concept to your own work when you feel you are bogged down, when there have been complaints or hints about a need for a improvement or when you just want to reevaluate your efforts and results. You can also use the concept when you want to have something specific to take to your supervisor if you feel there are problems outside your control.

Steps for a quick work audit

  • Resist the thought that you know the problems already. If you do know what the problems are, you should be doing something specific about them.  However, whether you think you know what ails your work place or not, audit anyway to get a better look. One key benefit is that your conversations about it afterwards will let employees know you are aware of their work and their roles in the work place.  If you are looking at your own work, you can discuss it with your supervisor or manager to show that you are taking responsibility for your work and results.
  • Identify the core job description or work requirement. What is the essential work that must be done? If the essential mission isn’t happening in the right way, there is a breakdown or failure somewhere or with someone, no matter how sincerely people are trying or how well other things are being done.
  • Make a list of the people and processes that have the key roles in getting work done.  Focus on your own group but also consider where there might be weak or strong connections between your group and other areas. You may need to work with supervisors, managers or fellow employees in those areas to find solutions to problems. (Or you may need to find ways to work around those people, if they are determined to create problems.)
  • Review, survey and evaluate, using quick methods that give you snapshot of work.

Re-read emails or memos about work issues.
Talk to a few key internal or external clients or customers to get their perspectives.
Make a list of the problems, concerns and complaints you have heard from individuals in the group.
Look at work statistics or work products and see if there are deficiencies.
Go into work areas to see what is happening.
Now and then stop to listen and closely observe. 

Those actions will not give you the thorough assessment you might want to do later, but they can quickly help you understand:

  • The overall activity level of the work place and each individual employee.
  • What the work environment looks like, sounds like and feels like.
  • What is being done right now instead of work and how much time is being spent on that activity.
  • What work methods you are seeing that may keep work from being done effectively and efficiently.
  • The apparent attitudes of all levels about their work–employees, supervisors, managers, and others, based on what they say and do.
  • The status of the complete picture of good work: performance that is high in quality and quantity and behavior that is effective and appropriate.
  • Who is steadily working and who is not.
  • Who is assisting and who is distracting.
  • The end result of it all for clients, customers, users and others in the work chain. (In a short time you may get a very clear picture of why there have been complaints or grumbling!)

The bottom line: Improved effectiveness and efficiency and an improved work place starts with getting a picture of where things stand right now. Conduct a brief work audit to begin to find out. Take a few hours and briefly audit work–your own or the work of those for whom you are responsible. Then, get with each person for whom you are responsible and direct the immediate changes that are needed. Next, set a schedule for long-term improvement. It is possible to achieve that, so keep your focus and give others a focus as well.

March 22nd, 2010 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Supervision and Management | 6 comments


  1. Excellent idea…I’m going to do this and see if it helps me figure out what is going on around here. As it is, no one seems to know why we’re in a continual SNAFU state.

    Comment by Rae T. | March 22, 2010

  2. Tina says: Let me know what you find out, Rae. Use my email contact if you want. T.

    Comment by TLR | March 22, 2010

  3. Tina, thank you for this suggestion. I know as a manager I should be identifying problems and working to solve them and this will help me do that. I haven’t done the observation part yet, but I just spent an hour gathering some background, and we do have some concerns I want to see about. I’m going to mention this idea at the manager’s meeting Thursday, if we can make it through the snow!

    Comment by P.A.H. | March 23, 2010

  4. Hello Tina! Well, you know I don’t work in an office! But, I tried this last night and thought it was interesting. One of the other sergeants tried it too, and even though we had different approaches, we both thought it was a good thing to do. We also did it at the end of shift this morning and that was interesting too. We’re going to do it again when the weather isn’t so weird. Thanks!

    Comment by C.M. | March 23, 2010

  5. Ms. Rowe, I appreciate what you are saying on this site and on the workplace doctors site, but for some people the world is different than this. My immediate supervisor is running scared all the time and almost never talks to me or anyone else except people who have worked here longer than him. He spends most of his time looking worried while talking to his boss who is sitting at a computer all day. That will continue off and on until it’s time to go home and I know they both work late, doing what I don’t know.

    I (and other clerical techs.) take faxes, spreadsheets, reports, etc., to the higher boss and he almost never looks up, except to tell us to put them down and close the door as we leave. When we have birthday parties his admin. takes him a piece of cake but he doesn’t come in. Even when he leaves for lunch or a meeting he doesn’t smile he just tells us where he’s going and he looks irritated, like it’s our fault he hates his job! We all are so sick of it we feel like quitting, but we know we can’t afford to.

    There are none of the meetings, conversations or feel-good things you write about. So, either I have the worst place in the world to work or you have worked in wonderful places. Do you think my work is worse than most? If so, what can I do about it, except quit, which I don’t want to do. Sincerely asking, S.

    Comment by Siel K. | March 24, 2010

  6. Tina says: Oh my! Siel, I’m very sorry about how work seems to you. If your work is like that, I think you really ARE in a worse environment than many people. Although, just in the last two days I have heard of some similarly unpleasant places. I’m very sorry about that, because there is no reason for work to be that way! It can be a very rewarding, fun and enjoyable part of life, really! But, everyone must take full responsibility for it–managers, supervisors and every employee.

    One thing you and others can do is to stop basing your work satisfaction on the actions of your boss or supervisor. You don’t mention that anyone is treated discourteously in other ways or that the work is too difficult or that you are underpaid dramatically. The bosses may simply be an unpleasant component for now.

    Perhaps you can value what you DO have—a job with friends who celebrate birthdays and probably do other fun things. Put your focus on doing great work, all the time, every day, no matter what.

    I often use this thought: If you were looking for work, as you were when you found that job, and they said, “We should warn you that your bosses will rarely communicate with you and they won’t be friendly. On the other hand, they won’t be overtly mean either. Do you still want the job?” What would you have said?

    Probably you would have said yes. It wouldn’t be the optimal situation, and if you found something better you might take it, but for the salary, benefits and coworkers, it might be OK.

    So, say yes now–and work to have a leadership role in building a strong team that learns to function without the help of the supervisor or manager. Be glad you don’t have their worries and work to make sure you don’t create any for each other or for them.

    I don’t expect you to have a Pollyanna attitude that this is really a good thing afterall. But, I hope you find something to dilute the negative things and enjoy the best of it and the other aspects of your life.

    I wrote you an email–but posted this reply so others could see what I said. Maybe they will have something to share as well. If so, I’ll forward those thoughts to you. Best wishes!

    Comment by TLR | March 24, 2010

Leave a comment