on November 23, 2011
Yesterday I received an email from my mom…that she received from someone else…that certainly stole my heart. It consists of four photos, telling the story of a deer that visits a cat every morning! Seems the two unlikely critters have formed a bond and start out every day showing one another some genuine affection. The kitty’s owner decided to snap some pictures to document this remarkable daily meet-and-greet event.
As an employee morale consultant, I can’t help but think how many people would benefit from following the example of this deer and cat. I simply mean that when you arrive at work, greet your co-workers pleasantly. And if you’re a leader, boss, manager, or in any kind of a supervisory position, say hello to those who report to you if at all possible. It shows that you care, and it makes a difference. Visit employees on their turf (stop by someone’s desk, go out on the warehouse floor, etc.)…and you’ll score extra boss points.
Saying hello and giving a smile to employees doesn’t cost a thing. And like the deer who keeps coming back to visit the cat…it will definitely be noticed!
on May 6, 2009
Catch an employee as he or she is leaving at the end of the day, and say, “I just want to make sure you know how much I appreciate you and all that you do for the company.” Accompany with a genuine smile and if it’s your style, maybe a pat on the shoulder.
Some may react with slight embarrassment or even with an awkward silence, but that’s okay. Assuming that you’re a decent boss and the overall work environment is pretty good, they’ll walk out the door feeling on top of the world knowing that they matter.
on April 23, 2009
Yesterday was Administrative Professional’s Day. And I’m starting to think that a day singling out secretaries, receptionists, administrative assistants, and other clerical workers may not be the best way to honor these invaluable employees.
I was quoted yesterday in a blog post on The Glass Hammer, an online community for women executives in financial services, law and business. I stand by what I said: “Flowers, a card, candy, and a lovely lunch are all terrific—and I would never, ever discourage a boss from doing these kinds of things in honor of Administrative Professionals Day. However, these are not the things that admins want most. What they really want—and what will make them feel extremely valued and appreciated—are opportunities for professional development and career growth.”
But a comment in the same post from Jennifer Bergeron, Human Resources Training Specialist for Summit County Government in Breckenridge, Colorado, really gave me pause. Jennifer concurred that career advancement and education opportunities for administrative professionals “lets them know that they’re part of the team, not an outsider.” But she also said, “Speaking as a professional past administrative assistant, I actually felt demoted when recognized for the day. I’ve worked in small offices, and served more as a marketing assistant, event director, and public relations specialist, so when flowers appeared on my desk to note my admin skills, I tried to be happy about it on the outside, but inside I wondered if that’s how I was truly seen.”
This annual workplace holiday just may be outdated and irrelevant…and it’s unlikely to be much of a morale-builder. Many factors contribute to high morale, and a big one is when bosses at every level consistently acknowledge, affirm, thank, and show appreciation to every employee, all year around. But since the annual observance isn’t going to go away any time soon, bosses should consider the advice I gave in The Glass Hammer post: Eliminate the guesswork, and ask employees how they like to be recognized and what makes them feel appreciated. And I’ll take that a step further. Right now, with the next Administrative Professionals Day almost a year away, sit down with your clerical and administrative personnel and ask what they honestly think of the day. If they like it, find out how they’d like to be recognized when the day rolls around in 2010. And if they don’t like it, offer to ignore the observance from now on.
on April 20, 2009
Dear Domino’s: I hate to say I told you so…but…I told you so.
I’ll explain in a moment. But first, let’s recap. One week ago today, on April 13, a video was posted on YouTube showing a few Domino’s employees doing some really disgusting things with food, as they appeared to be preparing it for customers. The video has since been taken down, so I don’t know how many people ultimately viewed it-but I read that on April 15, it had been viewed 562,627 times by 8 a.m., 728,816 times by 3 p.m., and 930,390 times by 9:30 p.m. A stellar example of social media’s viral nature.
The employees have been fired and face felony charges. And Domino’s is now fighting for its reputation. A two-minute video created by the Domino’s organization, featuring an apology by Patrick Doyle, president of Domino’s USA, was posted on YouTube on April 15. I just checked, and it has received 540,896 views in five days-not bad, but certainly no comparison to the number of views the damaging video received just in one day.
So here’s why I’m feeling just a teensy bit smug. A year ago-on April 16, 2008-I wrote a blog post titled, “The Domino’s effect.” I detailed an experience of mine with the big pizza chain-or more specifically, with an extremely apathetic Domino’s employee. It had to do with being charged $16.00 for two medium pizzas, although three mediums cost $15.00.
The point of my post wasn’t that the employee was a bad person or even a bad employee. My point was that Domino’s clearly did not empower its employees to make even the smallest decisions in order to make customers happy. I wrote, “Somewhere up the line, a manager at Domino’s decided that this low-paid, hourly worker was not important to the success of the company. Someone made the decision that he didn’t need to understand the goals of the company and that he didn’t need to understand how he contributed to the achievement of those goals. And it’s clear that no one thought he should be empowered to give the customer a good experience. Who can blame the kid for not caring?”
Unempowered employees become apathetic employees. It’s the only way they can really survive that kind of work environment. If they continue to care, but can’t do anything about it, they’ll be miserable, frustrated, and angry. Stop caring—and it’s much easier to get through your shift.
As far as I can tell, Domino’s still doesn’t get it, even in the face of this supreme (go ahead and groan!) reputation nightmare. In the video, Doyle says, “Nothing is more important or sacred to us than our customers’ trust.”
That way of thinking is faulty, Mr. Doyle. There is something more important than the trust of your customers. It’s the commitment and loyalty of your employees, which only happens when they are empowered, respected, communicated with, valued, thanked, and made to feel that they are an important part of the company’s success.
Doyal also says, “We are re-examining our hiring practices.” Well-that’s never a bad idea. But I suggest, Patrick, that you re-examine the way employees are treated, too. Even the best employees become negative and apathetic if they are not empowered, respected, communicated with, valued, thanked, and made to feel that they are an important part of the company’s success.
“It sickens me that the actions of two individuals could impact our great system,” Doyle says in the video.
It’s tragic that any well-intentioned organization should have its reputation threatened by the sickening actions of two employees. I have genuine compassion for everyone affiliated with Domino’s and sincerely hope they weather this storm.
But Mr. Doyle, as you evaluate the cause of this crisis and implement policies to prevent anything like this from happening again, please don’t miss a very important lesson. It can be found in the three words I used to end the blog entry I posted almost one year ago to the day before the corporate giant’s image went south: “Employee morale and reputation go hand in hand. Domino’s got eight bucks from me that day. But my opinion of the company tanked. Every employee matters.”
on April 3, 2009
In my last blog post, I wrote about meeting the delightful Rick Foster, one of the authors of a must-read book, “How We Choose To Be Happy.” More than 10 years ago, Rick and co-author Greg Hicks interviewed 300-some chronically happy people and found that every one of them made the same nine choices in life…choices that led to lives to extreme happiness. Since then, Rick and Greg have continued studying and writing about extremely happy people (whom I’ll now refer to as EHP!).
You might be thinking, “Sure, I’d be extremely happy, too, if nothing bad ever happened to me.” But the book makes it abundantly clear that EHP have their share of sadness and misfortune in life, and in some cases, more than their share. The thing is, while really happy folks allow themselves to feel sad or angry or frustrated, or whatever, they don’t allow those feelings or the incidents themselves to define who they are or to control the rest of their lives. They deal maturely with adversity. They rebound, grow from the experience, and make a choice to be happy again.
I mentioned last week that through their research, the authors also discovered that leaders who are considered (based on many measures) to be really great leaders make the same nine decisions in their lives that EHP make. Therefore, extremely great leaders are extremely happy people.
This isn’t a great surprise, is it? Everyone has to deal with loss, tragedies, hardships, disappointments, health issues, relationship problems, and experiences with hurtful people. And we’re all entitled to our reactions when life is difficult. But leaders must be balanced, mature, professional and gracious regardless of the circumstances surrounding them at work or at home. Leaders who lack resilience should get out of the way and let others do the leading. So if you want to be a great leader, make sure that you’re an extremely happy person. And if you’re not—learn how to become one. You won’t regret it.
on March 25, 2009
Everyone should read the book I’m going to write about today. And if you’re a boss or a leader…you absolutely must read this book.
About ten years ago, “How We Choose To Be Happy,” was published and pretty much became an overnight bestseller. The book’s subtitle is, “The 9 choices of extremely happy people—their secrets, their stories.” Rick Foster and Greg Hicks, two successful management consultants, wrote the book after interviewing with more than 300 people who are, by all accounts, standards and measures, extremely happy.
Rick and Greg discovered that every extremely happy person they spoke with made the same nine choices in life…regardless of where they lived, how they were raised, what kind of job they had, level of education, circumstances, or any other factor you can think of. And guess what. They’ve also found that really great leaders make those same nine decisions in their lives.
I’m typically a very happy person, but today I am deliriously happy, because I spent a good part of the day yesterday at a workshop led by Rick Foster. He is inspiring, kind, wise, insightful, and energetic. He’s also very funny and knows how to keep a room of PR/HR folks alert, engaged, and excited. I learned so much and took pages of notes that will soon be captured in blog posts. It was an amazing experience, and I’m serious—I woke up this morning with what can only be described as a happiness hangover. What a great feeling!
on March 19, 2009
Bosses absolutely must set an example for those they lead and oversee. Bosses with a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude create an unhealthy work environment full of mistrust and cynicism. Leaders with an elitist attitude may not pick up on the disdain employees feel for them, I can guarantee those feelings of anger and resentment are there. Loyalty and commitment from employees will be weak, and morale will be low.
Leaders frequently have opportunities and perks that are not afforded those in subordinate positions—and that’s appropriate. Among other things, these extras might include a company car or credit card, association memberships, occasional trips, long business lunches, or an office with a window. And these things are fine.
But when it comes down to the way people are treated and the way a person demonstrates integrity, there’s no special pass for the boss. The person in charge must always set an example by doing what is right.
Set an outstanding example for those you oversee by doing these ten things that outstanding leaders always do:
- Start and end meetings on time.
- Express appreciation frequently.
- Say please and thank you.
- Give credit where credit is due.
- If an apology is called for…then apologize.
- Share as much job-related information as possible.
- Be honest, kind and compassionate.
- Pitch in and help when help is needed.
- Respect the privacy of others and don’t gossip.
- Do your part to keep the workplace neat, clean and organized.
on March 11, 2009
Can’t remember where I once read this excellent quote about negativity in the workplace, but it stuck with me: Take a cheerful, positive, hardworking employee and put them in a negative work environment, and the work environment will win every time.
It’s so true. One negative person can bring the workplace down for everyone. You’re rare (and extremely fortunate) if you haven’t worked with someone who complains about everything, criticizes everyone, and in general, sees the bad side of everything. To toxic individuals, the glass isn’t half-empty. It’s empty. Let me be clear—I’m not saying we can’t have a bad day now and then, because that happens to everyone. I’m referring to the people who are unhappy, day in and day out. They’re miserable and determined to drag down everyone around them…because misery loves company, right?
As my opening quote suggests, chronic negativity spreads like a virus among co-workers and infects everyone, to some extent or another. It drains other employees of energy, loyalty, and good feelings about work. When allowed to prevail, negativity affects customer service, creativity, accuracy, and productivity. Negativity hurts an organization’s reputation and it hurts the bottom line.
As the boss, it’s your job to not allow gloomy, cynical, pessimistic employees to drain the life out of everyone else. You must deal with their downer behavior as you would any other performance issue that needs to be corrected, and here’s how that conversation should go, step-by-step:
- Thank the employee for their contributions.
- Explain the problem behavior.
- Ask if they are aware of this behavior, or that it is a problem.
- Provide concrete examples of the negative behavior that must change.
- Give an explanation of how their behavior affects others and why this is not acceptable.
- Provide concrete examples of the desired behavior.
- Review a prepared, written performance improvement plan with date-specific checkpoints.
- Explain that if the behavior doesn’t change, the next steps will be probation, then termination.
- Reiterate the abilities they have that are valuable to the company.
- Provide encouragement and state your belief that they have what it takes to make the changes you have outlined.
You can expect the person in question to have a negative response, of course, arguing that they’re not a goody-goody, not a Pollyanna, and not one of those people that smiles all the time. They may tell you all the reasons they have for being as unhappy as they are and gosh darn it, if you had been through all that they’ve been through, you’d be unpleasant, too. And perhaps they’re right. So it is extremely important that you honor these feelings and emphasize that you are not requesting that they change how they feel. Rather, you are requiring a change in behavior as a condition of their continued employment. And under some circumstances, you might suggest the employee seek counseling through your EAP, or other resources for seeking appropriate help.
It’s not easy to change behavior, as we all know. But it’s amazing what employees can do when their jobs are at stake. So you must deal with this as a serious personnel issue-because it is.
Finally, change will happen more easily and quickly when you notice every tiny improvement and let the employee know that you noticed. Your recognition and pats on the back are a big part of the change process.
on February 26, 2009
I hate gossip and believe it’s extremely damaging in the workplace. I’m quoted on this topic in the Entry Level Careers column published today at examiner.com.
I always advise employees to refrain from gossiping-and those in management absolutely must not gossip. It’s harmful to all involved-and the harm may be to your reputation. Remember that your colleagues who love to gossip about others will also love gossiping about you. Gossipers are insecure with themselves, and talking about others makes them feel more important and powerful. They will often reel you in with behavior that makes you feel like you’re a special friend and confidante-but typically, folks like this will spread rumors about everyone and anyone.
So make up your mind that you won’t provide fodder for the rumor mill. Always dress, speak, write, and behave appropriately and professionally at work. Don’t share stories about your weekend escapades, fights with your significant other, or financial problems. Don’t tell or be a party to off-color jokes. Be a class act. Treat everyone, from the CEO to the custodian, with respect.
I’ve read about some businesses that have a ban on gossip and impose consequences on employees who talk behind the backs of co-workers, customers, or others. Sounds like a good idea to me, but some leaders may be reluctant to establish a policy like that. Every person in management should set an example in this regard, though, and make it clear that you’re not interested in being a part of conversations that involve gossip, backstabbing, or spreading rumors. If you consistently demonstrate that you don’t participate in office gossip, the gossipers will eventually stop including you in those conversations.
on February 24, 2009
One inadequately trained (or inappropriately placed) employee can do a lot of damage.
To wit: Once in awhile, I’ll really want to give my money to some company, because I want their product or service. I’ll have the money, and I’m planning to give it to them. But the transaction is aborted because an employee of the company can’t help me, can’t answer my questions, can’t find the item I want, can’t explain the difference between two similar products, can’t give me the exact price of something, can’t tell me if the purchase comes with a guarantee, or can’t provide me enough information to inspire confidence in giving that business my money.
At the moment, I’m irritated with the employee. But that irritation quickly expands and morphs into a completely negative view of the company itself. After all—it’s the company that either hired the wrong person for the job, or didn’t provide the person with adequate training. So even if the company’s products or services are phenomenal, and every other person working there would have provided me with exquisite service, I now have a very, very low opinion of the company. If someone asks me what I think about that company, I’ll tell them about my disappointing experience.
During that conversation, I’ll communicate much more than my negative opinion of that company. I’ll communicate my perception of that company’s brand.
Here’s a good quote from Drew’s brand communication and design blog: “Brands that are successful communicate the same core message and level of service throughout all customer interactions.” He lists 10 (plus a bonus) free do-it-yourself branding tips for businesses—and they include employee education, telephone protocol, and removing the word “no” from your company’s vocabulary. The bonus branding tip is to empower your employees to be able to take care of customers.
And here’s another bonus. When you train, educate, involve, communicate with and empower your employees, you not only strengthen your brand—you increase employee morale.