Rodney Dangerfield could never get any respect. “I sent my kid to a private (engineering) school…He won’t tell me where it is!”
Today a tale of two managers, one a CFO with minimal people skills, the other an enlightened president (and public speaker), who encourages managers in keynote speeches to ignore the old saw “The customer is always right." He suggests, "Fire your bad customers. Value your key employees above all."
Today I spoke with an H.R. Director who freed her own future. Her CFO manager, in a fit of pique blew up and humiliated her in front of other company managers for not firing a union employee quickly enough. She had been working with the company attorney to weave through the minefield of potential litigation, a tricky process. His frustration boiled over into verbal abuse, sadly, a pattern of behaviors. She responded by resigning. She has been the buffer between the toxic CFO and the rest of the office staff. With the buffer gone, more resignations are inevitable. The CEO understands the problem but shrugs his shoulders, “He’s too valuable to our investors to remove…”
A company president I know, Sean Leahy of Vantage Group, treats his employees like royalty. The first company document to be completed by his new employees asks for any special needs or requests that would help a new employee be more productive…accommodations for a special chair, computer, flex-time, personal or family needs, training, whatever. “If it’s reasonable we’ll always accommodate the employee”, he says. The annual review is always a 180 degree (vs. a 360 degree excluding peers) review soliciting feedback on what management can do better. The company encourages ideas and suggestions for company improvements. The managers receive training skills in listening and management techniques. Turnover at the company is under 10 percent. In a dispute between an unreasonable customer and a valuable employee, I tend to favor the employee. A customer represents one account. A critical employee might touch hundreds of customers.
The attitude of these two companies represents a spectrum of possibilities for managers and employees. The numbers for turnover are amazing. The average employee tenure (depending on the position) is three years and declining. Of employees that leave, money is listed as reason number four or five. Respect is invariably number one.
In the knowledge workplace, “having the right employees, in the right seats on the bus is critical to success” says Jim Collins in his hugely successful book, Good to Great. The costs of turnover, training, recruiting, employee morale, lost sales and accounts are enormous. If the average employee stays three years and the cost of recruiting, training and getting an employee equals one year’s salary, that is an enormous drain on company profits. The costs of turnover are not simply direct costs. They are reflected indirectly in company reputation, perceived company value, a divisive corporate culture low morale and productivity.
If the management philosophy is “floggings will continue until morale improves” I wonder whether employees are encouraged to be creative or try new approaches to problem solving and contributing beyond the job description.
What is the environment at your company? Are you the kind of manager that employees would follow into a forest fire or a Rodney Dangerfield variation? “My kid asked for a bb gun for Christmas. He got me a t-shirt with a bulls eye on the back.” Let me know your thoughts at Jack.o’firstname.lastname@example.org.