Volume 47, Issue 8 - August 2012


Magical Thinking
What Does It Take to Make Employees Happy?
by Paul Bieber

Recently my wife Elaine and I went to a minor league baseball game where a very happy magician was walking around. I asked him what he did best. He replied that he is a master at making things change right in front of our eyes. He certainly was great at card tricks and pulling quarters out of kids’ ears and making everyone laugh and smile. I thought to myself, “If only we could fix unhappy employees this easily.” I concentrated on the game and, after coming home, this article formed in my mind.

Common Complaints
Why are employees unhappy? They will, most often, say “money,” but countless studies say this is not true. Here are the three most common complaints and what you can do to solve them.

1. “No one appreciates my work.” Give plenty of feedback to your staff. Give as many “thank yous” as you do suggestions on how to work better. Don’t wait until annual review time to say nice things to an employee. A good word from you now is more valuable than an imprinted coffee cup at year-end. When an employee gives you a suggestion, try implementing it and give full credit for the idea to the employee. If you can’t take the action suggested, provide the employee with a full explanation. At staff meetings, give credit to people who bring in a good job, finish an installation on time, or work for six months without an accident.

Make a big deal over an employee who has perfect attendance for six months. This doesn’t happen by chance; this employee really cares. Have your lunch in the employee lunch room on a regular basis, or take an employee to lunch after a particularly good job is finished.

2. “The company has different rules for different people.” Yes, most do. Managers and executives probably have different perks and programs. But make sure all folks at roughly the same levels are treated the same. If Izzy Installer always comes in late and you say nothing, and then Sam Screener gets jumped on for being late, you will sink Sam’s morale. If you give one employee a special day off to observe a religious holiday, then other employees should get their choice of a holiday as well. If you let Mike Metalcutter leave early to go to his kid’s school play, Betty Bookkeeper should have the same option. Yes, you will reward employees who work harder and care more for your company, but do this in non-public ways, such as a raise or a gift card.

Give growth opportunities to those who deserve them, but for the lesser performers, offer to send them to community college, or English-as-a-second-language courses so they can earn their way up the ladder, too.

3. “The boss doesn’t respect me as a person!” Whenever you can, respect an employee’s request for a certain schedule or day off. When you can’t, give a solid explanation. When Sally Saleslady can only get a doctor’s appointment during the work day, go along with it the first or second time. If you find it’s more than that, your leg is being pulled, unless she is seeing a very unique specialist.

Know your employees’ names. Don’t say, “Hey, you! Help this customer.” Respect your employees’ work ethics. Don’t look over their shoulders every ten minutes; understand there are usually two or more ways to get something done. Let employees do it their way if the results will be the same. And don’t correct or belittle an employee in front of an audience. Unless it is an urgent safety matter, pull the employee aside to discuss the situation at hand.

Don’t let your ego get in the way of praising your employees. You own the company (or are a key manager) but it is the employees who get things done. The net result? You will have lower employee turnover, which is one of the biggest cost savers in any company.

Paul Bieber has 30 years in the glass industry, including 21 years as the executive vice president of Floral Glass in Hauppauge, N.Y., from which he retired in 2005. You can read his blog on Tuesdays at http://usgpaul.usglassmag.com.

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