Do you love your employees? Now that’s an ethical question for you. After all, with all of the sexual harassment litigation in the business world these days, there should be no love exchanged at all in the workplace. But sexual harassment isn’t about love, but about power and desire. What we really want to talk about is how managers can truly love their employees. It’s not just sentimental silliness. It’s good business.
Most employees, deep down, will tell you there are three things they want from an employer. First, employees want appreciation. They also want understanding. Finally, they want respect. So if you want to give your employees Valentine’s Day gifts this month, dispense with the candy and the flowers, and give them the respect and charity they deserve.
That’s not to say managers must abdicate their authority or tolerate bad behavior. Managers do need to give direction, and sometimes they have to discipline poorly performing employees. They need to set goals and define boundaries, and they need to insist on results (and sometimes simply on meeting standards). But as a manager, do you really love your employees?
If you do, then you’ll clearly understand employees aren’t “human resources” or “human capital.” They’re people. So they need to be treated as people who are valued and appreciated—not as resources that are used (and sometimes abused) and then dispensed with when times get bad.
When employees are regarded as people rather than resources, we can put before them the vision of success and accomplishment that can be attained with combined efforts, and their talents, skills, and temperaments can be called forth. It’s unethical not to appreciate all that employees have to offer an enterprise—or to use what they have and then dismiss them.
To ignore both in word and deed what employees have to offer—or to use it without regard for the gift being offered—is to assure the death of the enterprise. To fail to appreciate their work is to fail to love the worker, and to encourage the worker not to love the work. That’s a recipe for business failure.
Managers also show love for their employees by understanding them. When I’ve brought up this subject in corporate training, managers roll their eyes. “You mean I have to accept every excuse they give me for not working?” they ask impatiently. In response, I have to wonder whether the managers have given the employees some good reasons for not showing up.
We can show love by creating an atmosphere of understanding. We can communicate clearly what our expectations are and why they’re important. We can seek input from workers on how a job could be done more quickly or more efficiently and understand the job from their point of view.
We can understand what motivates them, what excites them, what frustrates them, and how and when they feel devalued. As a consultant, let me assure you—there’s a real lack of understanding in the workplace, and I’m convinced this managerial error is a major reason employees and enterprises fail.
We show love to employees by respecting them. How do you see your employees? Do you regard them as people with tremendous intelligence, competence, and talent? Maybe they haven’t received the training they need, or perhaps they haven’t been given guidance on how to establish and practice good work habits. But most employees are smart and competent, even if only in one or two areas. Capitalize on their ability, show them respect—and tell them how valuable they are.
In the end, though, we communicate respect when we’re willing to go to the wall for them, for their jobs, and for their value. An employer who loves his or her employees will do everything possible to maintain jobs, even in an economic downturn, and even in the midst of automation. Or, if layoffs or closures are necessary, he or she treats employees with the respect they deserve. We demonstrate respect when we stand by the most important part of the enterprise—the people who work for us and with us.
Share some love with your employees—not just this month in which love is highlighted, but at every opportunity you can find. Flowers and candy are fine, too, but they’re outward signs of inward truth. Flowers wilt, and candy is consumed. But does love continue in your workplace? IBI