Thursday, June 20, 2013

Why Would You Want An Employee To Fail?

"No!" Seth said.  "I want him in a position where I can hold him accountable for his failures."

John, the department manager, looked at Seth, the office manager, with a puzzled look on his face.

"You asked us to come up with a proposal to streamline the process and make it easier on everyone.  We discussed this as a team and divided responsibilities up based on each person's strengths and what they prefer doing," John said.

"If you put Ryan in that position, he'll succeed.  I want him in a position where he can fail and I can hold him accountable for his failure," replied Seth.

"You mean so you can fire him?"

"If that's what it comes to."

Seth wasn't interested in matching employees with their strengths.  Or helping the department be successful.  He was interested in one thing and that was making sure that Ryan failed so he could terminate him.

Ryan wasn't a bad employee.  It was a personality conflict.  Seth didn't like Ryan and didn't want to work with him.  His solution was to put him in a position where he could be terminated for being unable to do the job well.

There was a problem with this plan.  Word quickly spread among the other members of the team that Seth was targeting Ryan.  That caused employees to ask a question- Who else does he want to get rid of?

Your job as a manager is to use the strengths of your employee to do the best, most efficient job you can.  Using your position to hamstring an employee simply so you can terminate them is not only bad form, unethical, and possibly illegal, it does a couple of other things as well.

It ruins morale and it destroys both your credibility as a manager and your ability to lead.  Why would someone do their best for a manager they know, or suspect, is targeting them?

How does it affect your bottom line?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Celebrations Create a Greater Sense of Team

This is another post in a continuing series on improving morale (and the bottom line) in your company at little or no cost.

“It is lovely, when I forget all birthdays, 
including my own, to find that somebody remembers me.” 
-Ellen Glasgow

Photo by: dixieroadrash (Flickr)
Birthdays, work anniversaries, new babies, weddings, accomplishments of your employees children- Celebrate!  It brings fun to the office and reminds everyone that there are lives outside of the workplace, that there are some things more important than work.  Celebrating together also builds a sense of team and reminds individuals that they are not anonymous workers.

Get a card that you and their co-workers can sign and slip a $5.00 Starbucks (or other favorite place) gift card inside.  This is an easy, inexpensive way to personalize awareness of your employees.  When you remember and acknowledge a special occasion, you let them know that you care about them individually.

Celebrations don’t need to be elaborate parties with streamers, cake, and gifts.  But, whatever you do for one person, you set a precedent to do the same for everyone.  Throwing an elaborate party for one person and not another tells everyone that you are picking and choosing your favorites.  Keep it simple and thoughtful.  Get everyone to sing.  It’s corny and embarrassing, but it’s fun and it brings the office together.

You could have a monthly party, celebrating all birthdays.  Do a potluck.  Give an employee a paid day off on their birthday (if their birthday doesn’t fall on a workday, give them the option to take a Monday or Friday off).

While not a time to celebrate, deaths and illnesses, of your employees or their families should be remembered as well.  This shows that you support them in the good times and the bad.

A few years ago, my brother was killed in a traffic accident.  My boss and co-workers all chipped in and bought a flower basket and sympathy card.  That meant a lot.  What meant even more was when my boss, who didn’t know my brother, came to his viewing to show her support for me.  It was only an hour out of her day, but it earned my respect for life.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Tale of Two Grocery Stores and Their Morale

 I love shopping at Harmon's Grocery Stores in Utah.  With all the other choices I have, that is where I go.

There's ONE big thing that keeps me shopping there.

The customer service.

There's a Harmon's about mile from my house.  Right across the street is a Walmart.  I know going to Harmon's that I'm going to pay a little more for some of the same products I can get across the street at Walmart.  I gladly pay that extra 25 cents for a bottle of ketchup-  because it comes with great customer service!

Harmon's employees are always smiling.  The employees greet me (some know my name) and ask if they can help me.  At the Walmart across the street, I'm lucky to find an employee while I'm walking down an aisle, and God help me if I need assistance.  I'm alone in a desert wasteland of customer service.

Harmon's responds quickly to long lines at the checkout lanes, adding cashiers when needed.  They are always pleasant, even when they've been pulled away from other duties to help check customers out.  At the Walmart across the street, lines are long, especially in the late evenings where there might be 3 or 4 check stands open (in a store with over 20 lanes).  The cashiers may grumble a "hello," and often that's my whole interaction with a Walmart employee.

What's the difference between these stores?  Morale.

It's obvious that the Harmon's employees enjoy their jobs, like working with customers, and love working for their company.  Many have been with Harmon's for years.  That high level of morale translates into fantastic customer service.

At the Walmart, most of the employees mope around, drag themselves from task to task through the store, and don't seem like they want to be there.  That low level of morale translates into poor customer service and an atmosphere that drags me down as well.

All things considered, I'll shop at the place where morale is high.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Your Happiness Is Not My Problem

Happiness is an individual choice.  Morale is a choice that can be affected by an individual.

On a Tuesday, in early May 2013, I listened as Linda told me about what had happened the day before.

"The store manager began calling department managers and supervisors to his office, one by one.  No one likes being called to his office because it almost always means he's upset.  This was no exception.

"'I can't make you happy,' he told Linda.  'That's not my job.  My job is to run this store and sometimes the things I have to do make people unhappy.  Your happiness is your problem.  Not mine.  If you can't be happy here then you should find someplace where you can be happy.'

"That was the essence of the conversation.  My happiness was not his problem."

Linda, along with other managers and supervisors in the store, was confused and upset.  The morale in the store had been low for quite some time and instead of addressing the issue, the manager decided to let people know it wasn't his responsibility, as if that would fix it.

Linda was surprised when I told her the manager was right.

She'd come to me expecting a sympathetic ear.  Instead, I was agreeing with him.  As she began to respond, I stopped her.

"Happiness is a state of mind.  No one but you gets to decide why and when you're happy.  Not me, not your husband or children, not the store manager.

"But, your manager is a bit confused.  He thinks the word 'happiness' is interchangeable with 'morale.' There are some similarities, but they aren't the same.  Morale isn't happiness.  It's more than that.  Morale is the collective enthusiasm, confidence and attitude of a group as a whole, in this case, the employees of your store.

"He's not responsible for your happiness, but part of his job as a manager IS the morale of the store.  It's not ALL on him, but as the leader he sets the tone.  A leader who doesn't understand how their attitude and actions affect the morale of the employees isn't a leader.  They're a boss.

"Bosses never get the best from everyone all the time.  They don't understand that morale is an important measurement of how the business is doing.  They may get the job done, they may individually succeed (which is frustrating to others), but they rarely excel.  Leaders excel because they have teams behind them that believe in where they're going and what they're doing."

"So what should I do?" Linda asked.

"Don't let him affect your happiness."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

It's Really Not That Hard: Show Some Appreciation

This post is another in my series of how to improve morale (and the bottom line) in your company at little or no cost.

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing.  It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”

When employees don’t feel appreciated by their bosses, they question what they’re doing and why they should care.  They become disengaged and low morale and higher turnover follow.  A Gallup study showed that 70% of employees in American workplaces say they don’t receive praise or recognition⁠1.  According the the U.S. Department of Labor, 64% of people who leave their jobs, do so because they don’t feel appreciated.  Hiring costs have been estimated to be as high as 150% of a person’s salary and that adversely affects the bottom line⁠2.

Employees can love what they do and not love working for you.  Feeling appreciated creates a connection with both the job and the employer, and this creates more engaged employees.  When employees are fully engaged with their job, they take it to the next level.  People thrive when they feel appreciated.  

Appreciation and praise are different for each person; some like it in public, while others like it to be private.  It’s up to the leader to figure out how individuals like to be appreciated.  But, regardless of when and where you praise them, you need to be specific and detailed.  Generalized appreciation quickly loses its meaning because employees feel like you don’t really pay attention to what they do. 

When you show your appreciation, strive for something new and unexpected.  The same old thing gets old.  Surprise them with a gift from time to time rather than at an expected time each year.  Express your appreciation after your employees have gone the extra mile to finish an important project, completed something in a time crunch, or come in under budget.

Be their example and foster a culture of appreciation within your business.  Getting employees to show their appreciation for each other goes a long way in getting them to work together as a team, maximize performance, and gets them committed to the success and growth of the team and business⁠3.