Zislis: A boss with heart fosters good employees
Like stinky cheese, obnoxious bosses come in two aromas: those blissfully unaware of their subtle smelliness and those unapologetically stinking up the entire building. If you are employed, you probably have a boss. If you are a boss, understand the influence you have on the lives of your people. I do a fair amount of career counseling for local clients seeking greener pastures, so I get an earful about unpleasant supervisors. Last year, USA Today reported, “Seventy-five percent of working adults say the worst aspect of their job — the most stressful aspect of their job — is their immediate boss.” Seventy-five percent. I don’t care where you work; three out of four agitated employees is a hot mess!
Realistically, bosses are first and foremost people by definition. Like the rest of us, they are sometimes susceptible to the wide variety of arguably offensive characteristics often associated with being human. Everyone is capable of having a bad day or displaying incompetence, ignorance, negligence, narcissism and nastiness. Cumulatively across the personnel spectrum, such blatant offenses have profound impact on the entire operation. A troubled work force is defensive, resentful and desperate for allies. People steeped in conflict are fearful, physically unhealthy and fraught with anxiety. That kind of toxic environment fosters abysmal performance, costly turnover, dissention among co-workers, and bleak customer service. Instead of innovative productivity, restless workers fantasize about moving on. And who could blame them?
No company or individual is perfect. The goal is to acknowledge our collective potential and insist on a higher standard of professional competence, kindness and respect. If your people are willing to attempt their best, they deserve to be managed with heartfelt integrity. Like abused dogs, people learn to deflect threatening and confrontational behavior. Given the choice, no employee would choose to be condescended to, humiliated or taken advantage of. Nobody prefers patronizing intimidation over positive leadership. No one wants to be mistreated, set up for failure or thrown under the bus. Injured employees do not become inspired over time; they develop emotional exhaustion and prepare to flee the scene in search of safer conditions — to the detriment of the entire organization.
I did some research on what makes top-ranked corporations so desirable among employees. Sweetheart companies like Google, REI, DreamWorks Animation, Patagonia and Edward Jones boast huge revenues and astoundingly low turnover rates and shatter antiquated industry standards for maximizing workplace morale. Top-level executives that nurture emotional capital among all ranks of the work force realize the highest dividends on the bottom line. The correlation between industry-dominating production and high staff morale is no accident.
Corporate health benefits, fancy gym memberships, on-site child care and free smoothies are all very nice but aren’t necessarily the best perks. Intentional workplace cultures designed to nurture human assets start with genuinely caring about your people. Employees are inspired to work their very best when they feel personally respected, tangibly valued and publicly honored for their efforts, big and small. Ownership and accountability should be top-down and bottom-up. Clear job descriptions, transparent mechanisms for effective communication, encouraged incentives for taking initiative and meaningful rewards for exceeding expectations are all consistent components of the world’s leading firms.
Here’s a reliable human-resources strategy for you: Hire the most qualified professionals with the best references you can afford. Give them the resources, training and support they require to do their jobs effectively. Encourage them with kindness for their honest efforts, and reward initiative when expectations are exceeded. Exemplify good leadership with integrity, competency, generosity and compassion. Give your team ownership and accountability, and then get out of the way. Do this, and your team will follow your good example happily.
Nasty supervisors don’t deserve honest, hardworking employees. Sincere, diligent bosses should not tolerate slackers. When organizations effectively integrate heart and integrity into their corporate strategies and operational practices, everyone goes home happy.
Evan Zislis is founder and principal consultant of MyIntentionalSolutions.com, delivering hands-on organizational solutions for households, businesses, nonprofits, students and life transitions. To comment or suggest column topics, visit the Facebook page “Intentional Solutions.” For more information about simplifying your stuff and organizing your life, call 970-366-2532 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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