I see this all the time at work, when callers are clogging the phone lines and the workload is skyrocketing. I believe that there is a psychological phenomenon that happens when the workload surpasses a certain point. When employees have hope of reaching an acceptable workload or in my case at the call centre, when they feel that zero customers in line is reachable, they work harder to get there. I can feel the tension and joy at work if there are eight customers waiting; agents keep skipping breaks, chasing each other and pushing themselves in a hunt for zero. Why do they not work as hard when the phone lines are glowing and we have twenty or more customers in line?
All people want to have great results. Teams want to win. If you play a great match and scoring four goals and your competition score five, you still loose and you will feel bad. My favorite soccer club has been down by three goals, ending up winning 4-3 this season. Why is this even possible? How can I transform this spirit to work? Why is it that 8 customers in line can be served in 20 minutes resulting in great statistics and zero customers in line, when reducing 16 customers in line to 8 in line seem impossible or might take much longer? At some point we surrender, if we do not have the focus necessary to succeed. We do no longer skip a break to reach our goal. Now is just as great to get a cup of coffee as any other time, we won’t succeed anyway and the workload seems insurmountable. This again is resulting in a waste of seconds and minutes, as the employees won’t skip a break, won’t put in the extra effort to reduce the queue as if victory conditions are only met when we reach zero in line.
Why is it that a soccer club can turn a 3-0 apparent defeat into a 4-3 victory in the second inning? Why did they not lose 5-0? I mean that surrendering a queue with 18 customers waiting is like losing 5-0, when we could try to fight it down to less than 10, and define this as scoring.
Define where the goal is, and what it takes to score? Even if you have a heap load of work, you can still define small goals and score. What do soccer players do when they score? They celebrate! Next time you manage to score run around the office with your arms in the air screaming your brains out. So the next time you have 18 in queue 12 might be hitting the post, 11 is GOOOOOOOAAAAAAL! Go fight.
Do not give up, it is almost impossible scoring from a long distance, zero seems impossible when you have 30 customers waiting for your gentle voice, but 20 should be within reach putting you in the scoring position. In this way you might be able to keep up the spirit even when it is boiling around you. As a notorious goal scorer you will be on the edge waiting for your chance to score.
On the other hand!
I like to discuss my thoughts with my wife, this time she challenged my thinking by saying, what if you need to diet from 100 kg to 80 kg, would you feel like scoring if you lost 4 kilos standing on 96 kg? I initially said yes, but I am not sure, there is still a humongous step to reduce even 16 kg more. This made me able to feel on the hopelessness that we feel when the workload seems impossible. It takes a strong mind to celebrate a small step and keep on going for the ultimate goal. I am now thinking; what does it take to get this personality? Can we train for it? How can I as a manager prepare the employees for this mindset? And how can an employee manage to reach and celebrate the small steps with the same energy as when the ultimate goal is within reach?