Best bosses’ secret? Show some respect

Dear CEOs and HR execs:

There should no longer be any excuses. This special section provides plenty of information on how to treat employees the right way for the right reasons.

The survey results indicate that the cost is little. Pay and benefits are clearly less important to most metro Atlanta employees than intangibles like appreciation and strong leadership.

Employee comments like, “0ur opinions are solicited, and our ideas are implemented,” are one of the reasons these organizations stand out.

Does yours? If not, what can you do to change things? Unfortunately, many workplaces need to change.

I hear from workers all the time, in e-mails about my columns and postings on my blog. The overall picture they paint is not a pretty one.

It’s in line with what Woodward Academy dean Anthony Thomas told section writer Mike Tierney: “You’d be surprised how many people in corporate America who make twice as much as me would trade places.”

Precisely.

Many employees tell me the same thing they’ve told Thomas: They plan to leave their firms if they can find another opportunity as the economy improves.

Many say the balance of power between employers and employees has shifted so much in the company’s favor that fear has become the normal emotion.

It’s the fear of what shoe is going to drop next — another layoff or wage freeze, paying more for medical benefits, losing a pension plan or seeing the veteran worker who was laid off last year get replaced by two new employees making half as much.

Many say they are doing more than they ever did before, picking up the slack from laid-off colleagues who were released in one of several “restructurings.”

In my view, nearly all employees understand the mounting financial pressures from an increasingly global economy. What they don’t understand is a lack of respect.

That’s why the accomplishment of the companies and organizations in this section are noteworthy. They represent “best practices,” one of two contemporary buzz phrases in corporate America.

The other is “customer service.” Often, delivering superior “customer service” requires the use of “best practices.”

But unlike companies in this section, many workplaces don’t get it.

Providing first-class service often depends on employees who are willing to go the extra mile. And that often depends on how they’re treated. Companies also should be judged by how they treat prospective workers. It can tell you a lot about their true feelings.

Does a company reply to job-seekers after advertising for positions, or does it let candidates swing in the wind?

In Georgia, we are facing an unprecedented situation. More than half of the jobless have been unemployed for at least 27 weeks. Many of them have worked for decades prior to this Great Recession. And it’s not easy searching for a job when the unemployment rate is in double digits.

It’s all about treating people — employees and prospective employees — with dignity. After all, aren’t we in this together? Isn’t that the real message these good employers are sending?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

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6 comments Add your comment

Shadow7071

April 18th, 2011
8:29 am

Today’s workplace is not pretty. Now that doesn’t mean there aren’t places great to work but I think the trend is toward workplaces where employees are under stress, duress, and maybe even abuse. The problem is that we’ve lost our way. More specifically, business management has lost their way.

Recently I visited the downtown Macy’s store in Minneapolis. This is the old Dayton-Hudson store and Macy has created a small museum where visitors can get a glimpse of the history the store and Dayton-Hudson. In this museum are letters, memos and communique’s from the senior management of Dayton. The writers of these documents speak about value, treating people with respect and doing the right thing over and above the business thing. What a contrast to today where we give lip service to value but in the end we choose the business thing over and above the right thing. Since that visit (and reading through those documents) I keep thinking of how viscous we’ve become. How un-civil we’ve grown.

Morrigan

April 18th, 2011
11:37 am

This article is all over the place. What is the point, please? There’s a difference between showing “disrespect” (whatever that ghettoized, overused word means) and an employee’s fear of layoffs.

All I'm Saying Is....

April 18th, 2011
12:51 pm

The point of the article — Treating employees with respect [asking for and listening to their opinions, for example] is more valued than increased compensation — is clearly made in the first few paragraphs.

“Dear CEOs and HR execs: There should no longer be any excuses. This special section provides plenty of information on how to treat employees the right way for the right reasons. The survey results indicate that the cost is little. Pay and benefits are clearly less important to most metro Atlanta employees than intangibles like appreciation and strong leadership. Employee comments like, “0ur opinions are solicited, and our ideas are implemented,” are one of the reasons these organizations stand out. Does yours? If not, what can you do to change things? Unfortunately, many workplaces need to change.”

As for me, I have worked in and/or been exposed to a number of workplaces and this point — just treat me as a valued member of the company — comes up repeatedly.

My view is that the folks in the corporate suite become consumed with earning their bonuses which are driven by attaining short-term goals and, as a result, don’t really care about the workforce as long as they have someone in every seat doing what needs to be done. And then it becomes how soon can I bring somebody in to fill the role. After you have been somewhere a few years, your skill set is typically taken for granted especially if you start earning a ‘high’ salary.

One outcome of the great recession has been a clear shift of leverage to employers and some have abused that power in terms of getting rid of folks with it having nothing to do with performance (i.e. shedding ‘high’ salaries), having several layoff rounds which demoralizes those still on site, and then showing even less concern for those still around by not listening to their ideas for how to better run the business and not sharing any information about when the layoffs will end such as what is the profit level required to stop the purge.

When the economy really gets rolling, you will see a ton of ‘off-ramping’.

No one expects lifetime employment with one employer but people would like to be treated like human beings and not lines on a spreadsheet.

BLh

April 18th, 2011
2:45 pm

Morrigan Be quiet!!!!!

Al Lanier

April 19th, 2011
12:41 am

Engaging and well written article! This tops anything I have read lately on the subject at hand. I wonder if this’ll be posted on Twenty-First Tycoon. Although the site has awesome political, business, technology and real estate news, they could use more stuff like this. http://www.21Tycoon.com

TnGelding

April 19th, 2011
5:04 am

It’s hard being the boss. Some jobs are more demanding than others. But too many of today’s employees don’t put being at work and doing a good job among their highest priorities. Of course everyone should always be treated with dignity and respect, in all endeavors. It’s hard to do though with some of the attitudes you encounter.