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.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

No One Likes a Fake: Be Genuine

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

“The public can only be really moved by what is genuine.” -George Henry Lewes

No one likes a fake.

A lack of genuineness creates suspicion about your motives as a boss.  If your employees feel your concern about, or your praise of them, is insincere there will be a constant question in their minds about your true motivations.  A lack of genuineness reminds me of the stereotypical used car salesman who acts like your best friend until you’ve signed on the dotted line.  They don’t care about you.  They care about the commission on the sale.  They’re concerned about themselves.

Genuine care and concern help foster community.  It’s within a community where people feel safe, where they serve, celebrate and mourn with each other⁠1.  When you create genuine relationships, people are more inclined to help you even when they don’t have to.  Being a genuine leader helps you help your team confront challenges, drive improvement, and position them for success.  People are naturally drawn to leaders who are genuine.

Genuineness and authenticity with employees is about being who you really are without putting on pretenses.

Being genuine should be applied to all the morale building techniques on this blog.  That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apply the many morale techniques on this blog, such as smiling, or showing respect, even when it’s difficult or unnatural for you.  It may just take some practice to be genuine using those techniques.  Remember, being honest is a large part of being genuine.

Friday, May 3, 2013

I Was Laid Off, And I'm Grateful

by Drew Goodman

While losing a job can be difficult, it can also be a relief.

I haven't posted here for a few days.  I've been a little preoccupied, because a few days ago, after 10 years at my job, I was laid off along with several others.  Rather than being devastated by the loss, I actually felt a huge sense of relief.  A weight was lifted from my shoulders.

The reason the layoffs were happening, I was told, was that The Store needed to make some tough financial decisions due to declining sales.  The largest controllable expense in nearly any business is payroll.  I've managed retail stores for nearly 20 years, so I've made these kinds of decisions myself.  Over the last 4 or 5 years, many businesses have had to do the same.

Unfortunately, these layoff didn't need to have happened.  True, the economy hasn't been great, yet this wasn't solely an issue with the economy.  While I could point to a number of mistakes The Store made, I'll focus on an element which I believe was one of the bigger factors in the declining sales of The Store: poor morale.

I never saw morale at The Store reach soaring heights, but in the last 2 or 3 years it had reached new lows.  "In the toilet," or "six feet under" would be apt descriptions.  In fact, morale problems at The Store are why I started writing about low morale and its effects on sales, productivity, and profits.

When morale is low, employee engagement levels fall.  Employees do only what needs to be done to keep their jobs.  Sometimes less.  When morale is low, most employees are unwilling to go the extra mile.  They're just punching the clock.

And customers notice.  Several of my best customers made comments such as: "What's changed?  No one here seems happy anymore."  Customers can tell when morale is low, because low morale affects employee demeanor and customer service.  Naturally, when customer service falls, so do sales.  When sales fall, you make cuts, and most often that means letting employees go.

From my forthcoming book, "How to Destroy Your Business in 6 1/2 Easy Steps" here are a few chapter headings from the book, with some examples of what caused low morale in The Store.  It gives you an idea of why morale was low and how it may have affected sales.

Be A Jerk

There's an old saying, "Shit rolls downhill."  Morale starts with the person in charge because they set the tone for a business.  This was the case at The Store.  The director is a person whose ideas of management are 30 years out of date and his attitude followed.  Here are a couple of his actual statements and one from his employees:
"Everybody steals."  Employees, constantly felt as if they were viewed as a thieves, lowering their morale, and studies have shown that when morale is low, internal theft goes up.  That's a self-fulfilling prophecy. 
"I could do your job on my lunch hour." Insulting employees with your supposedly superior knowledge and abilities (especially when it's not true) is an instant morale killer.  Why would you do your best for a boss when treated like that?
And one favorite that we used to repeat about his lack of gratitude, "If he ever says 'Thank you,' or 'Good job,' write it down.  It may be years before you hear it again."  Not expressing gratitude to employees for doing a good job is a good way to make them feel as if they don't matter, and that reduces morale a few more notches.
Treating people poorly, like cogs in a machine, like they should simply be grateful to have a job, is a surefire way to reduce morale.

Trust No One

During one meeting, the director asked for a raise of hands to the question, "Do you trust me?"  Every hand went up in the affirmative.  He then handed out slips of paper.  When he left the room we were to write down whether we trusted him or not.  The slips were filled out, gathered and counted.  Nearly every slip said, "yes."  "See," he announced, "people trust me."  After the meeting I talked privately with others who'd been in the room.  Nearly everyone wanted to say "no" but had been afraid that if they wrote "no" he would try to figure out whose handwriting was on each slip of paper.

He didn't engender trust from his employees because we felt he didn't trust us.  His actions spoke louder than words.  The lack of trust in the store was rooted in the fact that we felt being honest and open would more often than not get us in trouble rather than truly address a challenge or opportunity.

Trust, in large part, is built through open and honest communication.  Hardly anyone in that room wanted to be honest, out of fear.  The same applied to most people in the store.  When open, honest communication breaks down, morale quickly follows.

I'm More Important Than You

One of the assistant store directors was famous for postponing, moving, or canceling meetings.  Five minutes before a meeting was to start, he'd change it to the next day without regard for how the rest of us had arranged lunches or other meetings.  One week, he moved a particular meeting 6 times.  Several times he just never showed up.  We began making bets on if and when meetings would happen.

Having to reschedule meetings happens, but it doesn't need to happen constantly.  Schedule a meeting when you know you can attend, or don't schedule it.  Most often, his explanation was that he had important work that needed to be done.  Which meant, our time was less important than his.

We all have work to do and it all contributes to the success of a business.  When you devalue your employees' time in comparison to yours you devalue your employees and that lowers morale.


These are just a few examples of the environment where I spent my last 10 years.  It was filled with stress, ever increasing amounts of work, and ever decreasing support.  The low morale was acknowledged by nearly everyone there except the director and his assistants, and we tried to encourage one another, but in the end, hardly anyone was happy walking through the door each morning.  Had some attitudes been different, changes been made, and morale raised years ago, sales may still have declined because of the poor economy, but not to the extent that it ended up causing several people to lose their jobs.

In the end, getting called to the director's office and being told my position was being eliminated was tough to sit through, but as I walked out the door, knowing I wouldn't ever have to go back, my morale was at the highest it's been in years.  At least I can be grateful for that.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

When Employees Leave, Don't Take It Personally

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

“I think sometimes it is more important to be gracious than to win.” -Dorothy Kilgallen

These days it’s rare for an employee to spend their entire career with one employer.  Employees leave for a variety reasons and not all of them have to do with you, so when they give notice, leave your ego in your desk drawer.  Another business may offer them a higher salary, more responsibility, a job more in line with their passions, etc.  As long as you are doing your best to keep morale high, there is no point in obsessing over employees who choose to leave.

When an employee gives you notice of their intent to leave your company, don’t take it personally.  Don’t get upset.

Congratulate them.  Let them know that you’re happy for their new opportunity and wish them well.  And be sincere about it.

Their decision may put you in a bind.  It means you’ll have to train someone new to do their job, if you haven’t already.  It might mean that you need to pick up the extra slack for awhile.  But, getting upset or complaining about it won’t do you, or your other employees any good.

What will be the reaction of your other employees if you start bad-mouthing the person who’s leaving, just because they chose another opportunity?  They’ll wonder what you really think of them.  They’ll question whether or not you sincerely care about them and may wonder what you’d say about them if they found a new job.  Odds are, the employee who just gave notice will have friends among your employees and they will hear about what you say about them.  Ultimately, it may damage your ability to recruit new talent.⁠1

The employee who just left may someday return, armed with new knowledge and skills and be in a position to help your business even more.  If you’ve talked poorly about them, they may never return.  Or, your employee may ascend the corporate ladder quickly at a new company and you may one day be looking to them to hire you.

Be gracious and sincere and offer them whatever help you’re able to give them.  The employee who’s leaving will remember that and those who are staying will respect you.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Use the Magic Words

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

“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” 
-Gladys B. Stern

The simple act of saying “please” and “thank you” is drilled into children by parents and teachers asking, “What is the magic word?”  Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, we forget the power of these magic words.

“It is respectful to make requests rather than demands, to show gratitude and appreciation…”⁠1  Demanding something from an employee (“Go do that”), as opposed to asking nicely (“Would you do that, please”) is the difference between encountering immediate resistance and finding a willingness to do something.  Every request for action, information or assistance should be accompanied by the word “please.”  

The word please conveys both respect and consideration of the other person’s time and effort for which you are asking.  It’s a simple word that builds relationships.
Thanking an employee acknowledges that you appreciate them and value and what they do, rather than taking them for granted.  Expressing thanks is a profitable business strategy as appreciation increases employee productivity and raises your margins.⁠2

When you say thank you to an employee, be specific about your thanks.  When you attach a specific reason for saying thank you (“Thank you for coming in early to finish that quarterly report”), your employee is more likely to remember being thanked and retain that feeling of gratitude.

Occasionally, take the time to handwrite a thank you note.  Putting a thank you in writing stands out in today’s world of electronic communication.  The permanence of a handwritten thank you note will be remembered long after a verbalized or emailed thank you is forgotten.  Tom Peters said, “People don’t forget kindness.”

Be prompt and spontaneous with your thanks.  Don’t save it for later.  Your employee will have already assumed that you didn’t care what they did and will simply see a thanks coming days or weeks later as you sucking up, trying to get them to do something else for you.

Be sincere in saying the magic words.  Using either please or thank you sarcastically or without meaning it doesn’t you any good.  Your employees are smarter than that and can tell when your not being honest with with your gratitude.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Slap a Smile On Your Face

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

“I will never understand all the good that a simple smile can accomplish.” 
-Mother Teresa

Photo by eperales (Flickr)
        A smile is contagious.  Scientists at Uppsala University in Sweden have figured out that it is difficult to keep a straight face when others around you are smiling.  A smile from one person actually suppresses the control another person has over their own facial muscles, causing them to smile as well.⁠1
More importantly, according to Darwin’s Facial Response Feedback Theory, which is supported by recent studies, smiling actually causes us to feel good, as opposed to smiling because we feel good.  This means that when we smile we feel good, causing others around us to smile, making them feel good as well.⁠2

It's difficult for a person to be angry if met with a smile that is reflecting a pleasant and empathetic attitude.  Imagine if you were to greet your employees each day with a smile, or smiled around the office, the store, or the worksite, more throughout the day.  It would make the workplace a genuinely nice place to be.
You can't fake a genuine smile.  If you're in a bad mood, a smile will come across as disingenuous.  As Guy Kawasaki said, “The key to a great... smile is to think pleasant thoughts.”⁠3

I’ve worked at places where smiles from my managers, supervisors and co-workers were scarce.  Those are the work environments where people are most on edge because they feel as if they aren’t doing anything right.  Combined with a lack of openness from managers, this can lead to a constant fear that someone is about to get into trouble or worse yet, terminated.

While you can’t smile all day long and you’ll certainly have days when you don’t feel like smiling, just remember that smiling is contagious and can infect your whole staff, improving feelings and increasing morale.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Morale Sucks! What Are You Doing About It?

Leaders understand good morale leads to better productivity and higher profits.

There's an epidemic running rampant in business today.

It's known as low morale.

"More than a third of companies are so dysfunctional, the best people don’t really care about what they’re doing and the worst people don’t know that they are doing a lousy job."1

Deloitte's Shift Index indicates that 80% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs. 2

What's the problem?

There are too many managers and bosses and too few leaders.

Bosses see employees as replaceable, interchangeable cogs in a machine.  Leaders see employees as their most valuable assets.  Bosses see employees as an expense.  Leaders see employees as an investment.  Bosses push employees to a goal.  Leaders get out in front and employees enthusiastically follow.  Bosses motivate with fear (which is really a contradiction in terms).  Leaders motivate through respect.

Leaders understand that creating a culture with high morale leads to happier employees, lower turnover, satisfied customers, and better profits.

Why do bosses have a difficult time creating high morale?

They don't understand morale isn't about getting higher higher salaries and larger bonuses.  It's not about just being grateful that you have a job.

It's about the little things.  Things that often don't cost money, are inexpensive, or should be seen as an investment in the employees.

In coming blog posts, I'll be explaining how bosses and manager can become morale leaders by changing their attitudes towards their employees, how to make the little changes that increase morale, and how higher morale can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, and increase net profits.

Join me in the conversation.  What do you think improves morale?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Find the Purpose of Your Business

So, what's the purpose of your business?  In answering this question, remember you're not crafting a mission statement.  This isn't about what you intend to do, or the direction you want to go.  It's not about customer service or the value of your product.

You need a purpose statement rather than a mission statement.  As I explained in the previous two posts, the purpose of your business is the reason that it exists and when your employees understand that purpose and how their jobs relate directly to fulfilling it, job satisfaction and morale increase.

Here are a few questions to help you get to the point:

What's the purpose of your business?
  1. Why was your business started?
    • Is it the same reason you are in business today, or has the core reason changed?
  2. What need did your business fulfill?
    • Does it still fulfill the same need, or has the business been modified to adapt to new needs?
  3. Who was your business intended to serve?
    • Are your customers still the same, or do you have a new clientele.
  4. Would it matter to anyone if your business had never been started?  Why?
  5. Would your customers miss your business if it suddenly closed?  Why?
When you have dug into these questions and answered them fully and honestly, then you'll have a good understanding of the purpose of your business.  You'll be ready to craft a purpose statement, and more importantly, help each of your employees understand how their job is important to the purpose of your business.

Related Posts:  You Don't Need a Mission Statement, You Need a Purpose Statement
                        Purpose and Morale

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Purpose and Morale

Take a moment (just a minute and a half) and watch this video from my friends at Maria's Bookshop in Durango, Colorado.

They love what they do.  They understand their purpose.

Here's what Jeanne, one of the bookseller's at Maria's said about purpose:
"After 20 years in the world of bookselling, I believe more than ever, that people come in our store for a human interaction- for a point of connection.  I get to be that point of connection.  Our booksellers get to be that point of connection.   Those interactions have the potential to change lives- mine, ours and those of our customers.  How could you not be inspired by that potential?"
Purpose is understanding why you do what you do.  It's understanding the need that was fulfilled by starting the business.  When everyone in your business understands that core principal and how their specific job is important in achieving it, morale is naturally high.  As these booksellers pointed out, they "get" to work with customers and each other.  They don't "have" to do it.

I'll repeat: they love what they do because they understand the purpose of the business.

When employees don't understand the purpose of a business, other than it's there to sell things or services, that they are there to make money for the company (because the company mistakingly equates making money with purpose) and to take home a paycheck, work becomes drudgery.  They "have" to be there.  They probably don't love what they do (the majority of employees in the United States say they hate their jobs), and morale is low.  Employees with low morale only do what they "have" to do to keep their jobs and collect the next paycheck.

How much better would your company be doing if morale was high?  If your employees loved their job?  If they understood their role in the purpose of your business.

Like I pointed out in the previous post, most mission statements don't inspire.  But, understanding purpose, the entire reason the business exists, and why the role they play is important to that purpose, helps them understand how what they do matters.  That's why you need a Purpose Statement.

In the next post, I'll pose some questions to help you think about and understand the purpose of your business.

Related Posts:  You Don't Need A Mission Statement, You Need a Purpose Statement
                        Find the Purpose of Your Business

Monday, March 25, 2013

You Don't Need A Mission Statement, You Need A Purpose Statement

I think company mission statements are useless.  Most of them at least.
Here's a selection of some mission statements from companies large and small:

  • "Dedicated to convenience, excellence, and serving everyone."  Wow!  Be still my heart.
  • "Be the best in the eyes of our customers, employees, and shareholders."  Please pass some sugar for that bowl of oatmeal.
  • "The Company's primary objective is to maximize long-term shareholder value, while adhering to the laws of the jurisdictions in which it operates and at all times observing the highest ethical standards."  Good to know your primary concerns.  Yawn.
  • "We are committed to attracting, developing, and keeping a diverse work force that reflects the nature of our global business."  How politically correct of you.  Next!
  • "Undisputed Marketplace Leadership."  Ooookay.  And what was your product?

What's the problem?  I could slap any one of these on the wall of any company, anywhere.  They are bland, impersonal, and interchangeable.  They don't inspire employees to meaningful action.

And, most importantly, they lack purpose.  A company's reason for existing.  The drive for doing what they do.

What's the purpose of your business?  If you answer that by saying "to make money," I'm going to reach right through this computer screen and slap you.  Making money isn't the raison d'ĂȘtre of your business.  Money is simply the measurement of how well you're communicating your purpose to your employees and customers.

Why is purpose more important than mission?  How is having a clear and meaningful purpose important to building employee morale in your company?  In the next post I'll talk about the link between purpose and morale and why you should toss your mission statement and create a Purpose Statement.

Related Posts:  Purpose and Morale

Friday, March 22, 2013

Are You a Bully Manager? Take the Test.

This week has been "Fear Week."  I've discussed why trying to drive productivity through intimidation and threats doesn't work, as well as why people become bully managers.

Today, I'm giving you a short self-test to determine whether or not you are a manager who uses fear to try and motivate employees.  These are not things that you might normally think of as making employees afraid of you, but they are things that they notice and it makes them wary and puts them on the defensive.  Ask yourself each of the following questions, then think carefully and honestly about your answer.  Give yourself one point each time you answer yes:

  1. Are you inconsistent?  (Do you make a decision then change your mind within a few hours or days?).
  2. Are you dismissive of the ideas and suggestions of subordinates?
  3. Do you schedule or cancel meetings at short notice? (Within hours of the meeting).
  4. Do you avoid, or give the silent treatment to, employees you are unhappy with?
  5. Do you often work in your office with the door closed?
  6. Do you make a big deal out of little mistakes or problems that have no long term importance?
  7. Are you a micromanager?  (Hovering over employees or constantly directing every move).
  8. Do you make snap decisions without fully understanding a job, procedure, or process?
  9. Do you take credit, or allow credit to be given to you, when others did the job?
  10. When things go wrong, do you deflect the blame onto others?

How did you do?  Take the total number of times you answered yes and see what you your score reveals about you below.

  • Answered "yes" 1-3 times:  We all make mistakes.  We all have bad days.  You're not necessarily a bully, but you need to be careful about consciously noticing your behavior, make changes where you answered "yes," and resolve right now to avoid letting your behavior slip into any of the areas where you answered "no.".
  • Answered "yes" 4-7 times:  You are likely a bully and your employees resent your actions and don't enjoy working for you.  Morale among your employees is moderately low, but will get worse as time goes on unless you make changes.  You may be losing a few good employees who found new jobs.  Productivity and customer service (internal, external, or both) are not as high as they could be.  Be careful as your behavior could start to affect profits (lack of efficiency, increased hiring and training costs).  You need to be very conscious of what you are doing and why and work to make positive changes.  Read some books on leadership or find a mentor.
  • Answered "yes" 8-10 times:  You are a bully.  Your actions affect nearly everyone who works with you.  Employees don't like working for you and try to avoid dealing with you.  Morale is extremely low and employees are leaving for other jobs, looking for other jobs, or thinking about leaving.  Morale is also affecting customer service, which in turn is leading to lower revenues and profits.  You need to do some serious soul searching about why you treat your subordinates with such disrespect and look for help and training to become a better manager before you find yourself fired or your business fails.

Starting next week I'll focus on understanding morale in the workplace and some "big picture" things that you can do to make a positive change in the morale of the office.

Related Posts:  Fear and Loathing in the Office
                        You Can't Train an Old Dog, But You Can Ruin a New One

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

You Can't Train An Old Dog, But You Can Ruin a New One

Photo by HunterJumper
In the previous post, I explained that leading through fear may increase short term results, but also increases long term damage.

So why do so many managers use fear to try to motivate employees?

The problem is, too many managers have been trained in the art fear management.

I once worked for a bully.  He came from a place and time where management through fear was an accepted way of doing things.  He was awful to work for and he refused to change.  You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Unfortunately, you can train a young dog the wrong way.  He hired a new assistant store manager.  When this new assistant started, he was excited, enthusiastic, and we enjoyed working for him.  The departments he oversaw had good morale and high productivity.  But, the poor management techniques of the store manager were taught to this new assistant and eventually he was using management through fear as well.

Managers who use fear tactics are under the illusion they work because they can see immediate results.  Intimidation and threats make people afraid that they might lose their job.  They may work harder or work extra hours in the short term in order to keep their job and avoid the threat.  Inevitably, the manager sees the positive results he achieved using fear and continues to use it.  The manager equates fear with productivity.  But, what they really end up doing is accumulating negative long term results in order to acheive the immediate, high productivity outcome.

The problem is that fear is the foundation of anger and those who make us afraid also make us angry.  Angry employees resent what they are told to do, who tells them to do it and morale drops.  You can do this for only so long before anger and resentment overcome the fear, then your productivity plateaus and eventually falls.  Turnover rates increase and hiring and training costs rise.  You may drive short term success through fear, but long term success will be elusive.

What eventually happened where I worked for a bully (and his assistant)?  The results were predictable.  In the short term, sales were high and the business successful.  But as the manager and his assistant continued to use fear to motivate employees, morale fell, turnover increased, customer service suffered, and revenues shrank.  Interestingly, neither the store manager nor his assistant could understand why things were declining.  They refused to believe that it had anything to do with them.  They were in denial that fear management was a failure.

Do you manage by fear or are you in denial?  In the next post I'll look at some of the traits of a bully manager and you may see some things you might not have realized are part of fear management.  Who knows?  You might discover something about yourself.  Better to discover it now and change, than to continue down the road to long term damage, low morale and falling profits.

Related Posts:  Fear and Loathing In the Office
                        Are You a Bully Manager?  Take the Test

Monday, March 18, 2013

Fear and Loathing In the Office

Fear isn't a motivator.

It's a demoralizer.

Someone who intimidates, threatens, or belittles their employees in order to increase productivity, isn't a leader.  They're a bully.

Over the course of my career, I've worked for a few bullies who used the "fear factor," attempting to make employees work harder and faster.  They pounded their fists, yelled, told us to go find another job if we didn't like it, and made subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) threats about terminating our employment.

An abusive environment, leads to "greater job frustration, tendency to abuse co-workers, and a lack of perceived organizational support."  It's difficult to actively engage and supervise employees when they are constantly being defensive with you and their co-workers.

Employees remember the times you act in a threatening manner and they internalize it.  Every time you walk through the office door, show up at a meeting, or call them on the phone, their reaction will be the same.  They'll be asking themselves, "What did I do this time?"  They immediately go on the defensive, looking for ways to deflect the abuse.  Employees who work in this kind of environment are constantly distracted by potential threats and they waste time devising ways to avoid them.  With less time available, they are inclined to do only the minimum to keep their jobs and this affects the workloads of other employees and departments.  When companies find themselves in this situation, morale decreases, productivity falls, turnover increases, and profits go down.

A true leader is out front, leading through respect and loyalty.  Employees follow because they want to.  Managers who use fear will find themselves driving results from the rear, constantly cracking the whip and pushing, because employees don't work hard for someone they don't respect. They move forward only because they are forced.

Before you're tempted to use fear as a blunt instrument of motivation, stop and ask yourself:  What will yelling, threatening, or pounding my fist accomplish?  Short term results and long term damage.

In the next post, I'll discuss why managers continue to use fear as a management technique.

Related Posts:  You Can't Train An Old Dog, But You Can Ruin A New One
                        Are You A Bully Manager?  Take the Test