By Mike Cook
For the Bellingham Business Journal
If you happen to follow my twice weekly postings on LinkedIn, you’ll notice a common thread throughout most of my writings, especially those written to get the attention of employers. Much of the time I am addressing a single key issue in hopes of shifting attention to that set of behaviors or practices that may be working against the employers’ best interest. Here at the beginning of 2019 I thought perhaps a general inventory of disengaging practices might be in order.
As it turns out employers these days have ceased many of the bad habits that in years gone by I personally found discouraging, but that does not necessarily mean employers have abandoned the mindset that gave rise to these practices to begin with. With that in mind, I’ll proceed in the hopes that one more trip down this familiar path might jar loose one or two employers from their unconscious perspective, keeping in mind that I do not mean to criticize, but rather, empathize.
Running a successful company is by no means an easy or risk-free task. It is easy to accept that in the midst of the day-to-day, employee engagement is not always top of mind. And yet, since the actual worth of any company is likely calculated in terms of the human capital on board at any point in time, despite the limitations of accounting rules, an employer best be on their toes and have someone assigned the accountability of making sure workplace practices are not inadvertently driving away people critical to the success of the business.
I’ll summarize here the content of an article appearing recently in Quartz at Work titled “Eight Avoidable Mistakes that Make Good Employees Leave”. As sort of an “Oh by the way” on the article, it is written by Travis Bradberry, a nationally recognized expert on emotional intelligence in the workplace. Here’s the summary, I’ll trust it to you to go to the actual article and read more if you have the inclination.
They make a lot of stupid rules. Companies need to have rules — that’s a given — but they don’t have to be short sighted, lazy attempts at creating order.
They treat everyone equally. While this tactic works with school children, the workplace ought to function differently. Treat your best people better.
They tolerate poor performance. It’s said that in jazz bands, the band is only as good as the worst player. No matter how great some members may be, everyone hears the worst player. Today this is still among the worst offenders — many will accept poor performance over the crap shoot of new recruits.
They don’t recognize accomplishments. It’s easy to underestimate the power of a pat on the back, especially with top performers who are intrinsically motivated. Do not take top performers for granted.
They don’t care about people. More than half the people who leave their jobs do so because of their relationship with their boss.
They don’t show people the big picture. It may seem efficient to simply send employees assignments and move on but leaving out the big picture is a deal breaker for star performers. They don’t let people pursue their passions. Talented employees are passionate. Providing opportunities for them to pursue their passions improves their productivity and job satisfaction, but many managers want people to work within a little box.
They don’t make things fun. If people aren’t having fun at work, then you’re doing it wrong. People don’t give their all if they aren’t having fun, and fun is a major protector against brownout. If you don’t know how to have fun, ask your employees.
So, here’s an example of a practice that I personally experienced that served to disengage me early in my career.
In my first corporate assignment I was given an office, overlooking the rear parking lot. Black and white asphalt tile covered the floor and there were no pictures of any type on the wall. Pretty bleak space. In an effort to spruce the place up I went to the building maintenance folks and asked about wall adornment. The guy in charge pulled out a three-ring binder and asked me about my salary grade. He then looked through the book and without apology told me my salary grade did not qualify for pictures or floor covering! No, really — whether I was going to be able to make my office more pleasant depended on my salary grade.
Not one to let something like a policy slow me down, I went home, created some decorative plaques for my walls and went on my merry way. This was just one among many steps I took to ensure that eventually I would be leaving that organization.
Which among your best performers is currently being denied pictures on their walls?
Mike Cook ‘s columns appear on BBJToday.com every other Tuesday. He facilitates a CEO peer advisory group in the Whatcom/Skagit area. He can be reached at email@example.com. He recently published ‘Thriving in the Middle: Why Managers Need to Be Coaching Each Other.”