If you’ve held any job for basically any amount of time, then you’ve probably felt unappreciated at one point or another. I know I have.
I’ve always been a good employee, but I began to lose patience when managers made changes that made no logical sense.
I would sit down and explain my view, but either they didn’t want some plebe telling them what to do, or they agreed with me, but the changes came from some higher-up and their hands were tied.
I felt like I was in the Wizard of Oz. Some mysterious figure was dictating how we lived, but I always felt like if I could just get behind the curtain, if I could just talk to a reasonable person in power, the right changes would get made.
But decisions continued to be based on data with a million confounding variables. And no supplementary information was gathered from the people who lived it and could provide clarity.
For instance, at one job our hours got cut because we ‘didn’t have enough customers’. If they once talked to us, they would know that we started the day with massive lines, but we were already so understaffed that people would leave in frustration before being helped. By cutting our hours further, they were pissing their customers off and shooting themselves in the foot.
And every job I’ve worked has been the same. It’s absolutely infuriating!
That brings me to my main point: your employees are the most invaluable resource you have, full-stop. Listening to them and making them happy should ALWAYS be your main priority.
Consider this my little PSA directed at business owners on behalf of all employees.
But First a Disclaimer:
A lot of business owners think making their employees happy is an expensive endeavor that includes constantly giving them free food, having nap rooms available, and constantly entertaining them with games. This is not only an extreme, it’s a Band-Aid solution for the stuff that actually matters, like listening to your employees about policy, wage, and daily task concerns.
My old job had pizza, video games, and dodgeball. And none of that made up for 8 hours of getting yelled at for being severely understaffed.
NOW we can continue.
Your Employees’ Happiness = Your Customers’ Happiness
I once had a supervisor who was straight up abusive. He screamed at us, called us idiots, and phoned us on our days off to admonish us for mistakes we’d made. Eventually, I was so tired of taking his abuse, that I had zero tolerance for customers who were even slightly grumpy with me. So much so, that I started picking fights with them! I was absolutely miserable.
This is an extreme example, but things like brushing off an employees’ concerns about what makes their job more difficult, or instituting policies that favour your customers at the expense of your employees will do just as much damage. When people aren’t happy and secure in their jobs, they aren’t doing their best work. And at the end of the day, the whole company suffers for it.
The Lower Your Position, the More Valuable Your Knowledge is
I know this is going to explode your deeply held belief that if someone is wearing a suit and has ‘executive’ in their title, it means they must be more important and knowledgeable. They probably get paid a lot more, but the knowledge of the people at the bottom is WAY more valuable.
Why? Because they are often the ones interacting with customers. They have first-hand knowledge of what customers like and don’t like about the company, and how policy changes influence their decision to shop. That’s priceless.
And even if they never speak to a customer, they are way more open with each other about how they feel about the company. They talk about all the little problems with the business structure that a manager may never bump into. They have good ideas and should have a voice in the evolution of the business.
Don’t believe some 20-something nobody on the internet about revolutionizing business practice? Then take the advice of the Harvard Business Review: “Leadership would do well to shun the ‘Me’ approach and deregulate, decentralize and transfer a substantial part of the organizational control to the frontline.”
Turnover is Damn Expensive
If employees aren’t happy and aren’t listened to, not only do they get fed up and leave, taking the jewels of wisdom they have collected about your business with them, but they leave you in a position of having to find and train new staff, who will be subject to the same issues that you’re currently blind to.
Listening to your employees, treating them fairly, and paying them fairly is way less expensive than constantly having to find new staff and bring them up to speed. And if you can’t find staff to work the frontline jobs, you no longer have a business. They’re kinda important.
Playing dictator may feel good or even right in the moment after you’ve spent years climbing the ladder and no one listened to you when you started, but trust me, it’s short-sighted.
And The Future Leaders are…
Young people are trained from birth to accept the status quo. In school you sit down, shut up, and follow the rules. When you get your first, second, third job? It’s pretty much the same. If you don’t give your employees the power and freedom to make decisions and given them a voice in the direction of the company, who is going to take over?
I’ll tell you. Someone who is comfortable with things the way they are and completely uncomfortable voicing their opinions after being shot down a million times. The business will eventually stagnate.
I’m not suggesting that you give total power to your staff. There’s a happy medium. Talk to them, ask for their opinions, challenge them on their ideas as a peer, institute the ideas that make sense, or put proposed changes to a vote. Giving people a voice will make them more loyal to the company, and keep them motivated to do a good job.
Shit isn’t the only thing that has to roll downhill. Try rolling a little goodwill their way.
Now that you’ve read through my arguments for why employees should be the top priority of any business, I implore you to go out and hug someone with a crappy job. They need it more than you could know!