A Kinder, Gentler Workplace

I don’t know about you, but for the past few years I have noticed an increasing schism between the old understanding of boss and worker relationship and the new.  As individuals begin to realize their own power as a cog in the great machine called capitalism, they are more apt to speak out or make changes.  Not only as a worker but also as a consumer.  In truth, an informed person is an empowered person and the spreading of the empowerment in the name of change can bring any organization to its knees.  Some companies see the value of happy, healthy and respected employees, others do not.  Those that do thrive because they get the highest productivity from those workers.  The companies that see a worker as disposable and a liability will reap poor productivity, theft and dishonesty from their workers.

According to human resource veteran David Russo, companies like Johnson & Johnson and Men’s Warehouse are great examples of successful organizations that understand the importance of their employees.  In an interview by Connie Blaszczyk of Monster.com, Russo says this:

    “…Johnson & Johnson and the Men’s Wearhouse are great examples. These companies offer their employees a work environment that allows them to do exceptional work while acknowledging the company’s dependence on them to succeed. These companies tell employees that they value them as persons, not just when they deliver the goods. But they’re also clear that they must deliver the goods in order to be recognized.

They show recognition and respect for their people via the behavior of their managers. There’s no pecking order — the leadership is all qualitative. It gives people an opportunity to have high respect for their leaders — gained by listening and taking risks. It’s about leadership that delivers as a resource, not as an overseer, and is willing to act as a coalescing agent to guide and encourage; and to create an environment for motivation.

Behaviors of employees are always somewhat self-centered. But when they want to deliver valuable contributions and help the company advance and compete, then everyone goes forward. AND this enlightened self-interest works for employee and employer alike.”

John Sununu once said, “I do not support raising the minimum wage, and the reason is as follows. When the minimum wage is raised, workers are priced out of the market. That is the economic reality that seems, at least so far, to be missing from this discussion.”

This attitude, seeing workers as a business cost versus an investment, is based on a medieval hierarchical philosophy that some are entitled and some are not.  Workers should be happy to be working.  If they must work more than one job in order to survive, then so be it.  The focus for the “boss” mentality is only the financial bottom line.  These types of business owners or managers do not recognize the value of goodwill in the community, which extends to employees and their families.  Have we learned nothing from the story by Charles Dickens’, A Christmas Carol?

Just when it seemed that we headed in a new direction where workers were honored for their contribution toward a company’s success, along comes a new desperate surge of animosity from the top-tier of the world’s corporations.  But just as the surge in the negative direction grows, so does the surge in companies moving forward with an attitude of gratitude for their employees.  This great divide only shows that the two models are at a natural point in evolution.  One fights for what was, one fights for what is to be.  The stronger will survive.  That is the great mantra of the free market system.

At this point is seems that those companies with an altruistic approach to its employees will most likely move ahead and squeeze out those who cling to the old ways.  Educating employees on peaceful resolution, problem solving and time management in regular training meetings results in a workforce that can deal with daily lateral level issues.  Recognizing employees for what they do right and finding ways to eliminate the potential for insecurity, envy and unhealthy competition results in an atmosphere of abundance rather than scarcity.

Thomas DeLong of the Harvard Business Review said, “Comparing is a trap that permeates our lives, especially if we are high-need-for-achievement professionals.”

Creating an environment that allows growth in a variety of ways, rewarding employees for achievement in everything from good ideas to finishing a project ahead of deadline, and then following through with a merit system moves a company in a good direction.  This is investing.  Even when a company has to be tight on payroll, employees who are made to feel that they are part of the hope in a company’s comeback will work even harder to bring that improvement to fruition.  Employees who are made to feel like the problem in a company’s economic downturn are apt to get what they can before they lose their job.  Productivity is last on their list of priorities.

When a company is on its way down the slide to destruction there are obvious signs along the way.  One is the attitude of the employees and the things they say about their company.  A great article about the worst cancers in a company was written by Louise Altman at the Intentional Workplace.   In her blog “Envy, Jealousy, Resentment:  The Comparison Emotions at Work,” Louise reminds us that unbalanced competition at work can create a negative atmosphere.

“It is easy to see why envy, jealousy and resentment are routinely triggered in most workplaces.  Position, power arrangements, lack of trust and transparency, miscommunication, time pressures and real or perceived scarcity of resources can pit people against colleagues and the “competition.”

In fact, unbalanced competitiveness can set the stage for envy, jealousy, resentment and greed. Because competition is the primary ethos that drives Western business, competing with others is an expected and even desirable function of the business model.”

But what if instead of individual competition in business, we can be motivated as a team.  This would only benefit the business in the long run and certainly would build a sense of unity and pride in the workers through their achievement.  I personally believe we are headed in that direction.

When I look at successful business models that are on the rise, I see those who are utilizing the latest networking technology efficiently, finding creative solutions for expanding their benefits for employees, allowing some creative freedom for and inviting ideas from employees and recognizing the constant fluctuations in consumer attitudes as the cream of the crop.  Those companies who stay mired in the old “us versus them” and a wider profit margin at all costs are the ones that will eventually die off, bringing a resounding truth to the capitalistic triumphant shout of survival of the fittest.

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Author: Cheryl Hunter

Eve's Crossing is a state of mind. Cheryl Hunter is the editor and creator of Eve's Crossing.

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