Some time ago, a colleague invited me to work with her on a short-term project in a company. She had been hired by the new CEO to “investigate” why the organization was experiencing extremely high employee turnover, why morale was residing in the basement and what the best and fastest course of action to reverse these trends would be.
We suggested he allow us to conduct one-on-one random interviews with people at all levels of the company and look for common themes and patterns which would point us to the reasons behind his concerns.
And it didn’t take long at all for these patterns to emerge. Wherever we went within this organization, regardless of the department or type of work being done, it soon became abundantly clear why it was struggling to hold its own in a very competitive marketplace.
Well known author Marcus Buckingham firmly stated, “People don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers,” and never in my long career have I ever witnessed this to be more true than in this particular company.
It was apparent that throughout the company a prevailing culture of criticism prevailed. Person after person reported their daily experience of being constantly disparaged for their efforts, of being threatened with being fired and of being reminded of how lucky they were to have a job in these tough economic times.
We interviewed long-term employees who told us of never once having received any form of compliment of praise during their tenure with this company and that even hearing the words “please” and “thank you” were rare events.
The truthfulness of their accounts was validated as we began interviewing supervisors and managers who acknowledged their belief that the best way to manage people, is – to quote one of them – “to let them know we’re watching them all the time, to be all over them the moment they screw up and to never let up on the pressure.”
One of the managers really explained it clearly. He said, “it’s not my job to thank people for doing a good job, it’s their job to do a good job and it’s my job to yell at them when they don’t.”
Once we understood the extent to which yelling, insulting and criticizing were the norms in this company, and that these practices emanated from the senior executives who reported directly to the CEO, we went back to him with our findings and recommendations for addressing and resolving the problems he had hired us to uncover.
This man had been hired by the Board of Directors to stem the financial losses that had moved from a slow trickle to a torrential downpour under the guidance and leadership of his predecessor.
He was horrified by our report and his horror was amplified by discovering the degree to which his most senior executives supported, and perpetuated, this management style.
I tell this story because in the past few months I have been retained by several different companies to conduct similar internal investigations and all have concluded with the same result, with the only difference being the extremes of these types of behaviour.
It astounds me that in the year 2016 there are people in senior leadership roles who don’t get the simple fact that the most powerful, influential, and arguably, even manipulative way of motivating and inspiring people to perform at their very best is by treating them well and by showering praise when it is richly deserved.
A moment of politeness will always produce better results than a lifetime of rudeness ever will and taking a second to acknowledge and praise a job well done will always do more to ensure its repetition than any threat ever can.
I cannot imagine any theory on this planet by which anyone can believe that treating people the way those staff members told us they were treated, can possibly be viewed as a productive and intelligent way of producing results.
The old saying “what gets rewarded, gets repeated” is surprisingly not well known to that many people and yet the magic of that sentence will do more to produce continuous quality results than anything else available as a tool to inspire.
This was proven to me by the above-mentioned CEO who made swift changes to his leadership team and brought in folks who live and breathe a culture that promotes the notion that a respectful workplace is a productive one and, and that when we go out of our way to catch people doing things well, and then to praise them for doing so, we can expect to continue seeing more of the same.
Can someone please explain to me how something that should be obvious to all, isn’t?
Till we read again.