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Bosses and employees teammates or opponents

As we once again move into ‘strike season’ the tensions between management and employees become apparent. While these occurrences may not affect our industry, an indicator of change is that more people are confident enough to consider venturing out to find new employment opportunities.

This brought to mind the subject of the relationship between employer and employee. What is it that causes people to change jobs? Before looking at that, let’s consider why people stay in a job. It could be that they are happy. For many this may seem to be unlikely, but there are people who are so happy doing what they do that to call it work would be a misnomer. They could be nervous about whether the pastures actually are greener. Many feel they would rather stay where they are than risk being as unhappy or even worse somewhere new. While these are reasons to stay in a job, they are primarily a state of inactivity rather than actually taking action.

For those who do make the move there are also a number of reasons why. Some are merely looking for the next step up the ladder, obtaining a promotion which is not available where they are. The vast majority, however, would be leaving due to unhappiness. They could be moving for more money. This brings with it a number of reasons. What is it that is making them unhappy? Figures which are being bandied about indicate that in 75 per cent of cases employees don’t resign from a job, they resign from a boss.

The next statement may seem a bit obvious but, there is a contract which exists between employer and employee. I know there is the actual, written contract which lays out the legal responsibilities of one to the other, but there is another contract. This social contract is the type that you cannot argue in a court of law, but it should in fact be more binding than the written contract. It is a social contract because what governs this contract are the social graces. As an employer you undertake to provide a place of work which is amenable and which promotes the desire to work, is not hostile and which is conducive to the employee being ‘comfortable’. In return the employee undertakes to do the job for which he or she was employed, more where possible, with loyalty and willingness. Does any of this sound familiar? Not likely, there are arguments on both sides which tell the story of dissatisfaction.

The problem is that for far too many employees work is a grudge activity which they simply tolerate with a view to achieving the pay cheque at the end of the month. They do only what is required. The question which arises at this point is the proverbial chicken and egg, which came first the employee’s ‘negativity’ or the employer’s attitude of mistrust? Unlike the chicken and egg scenario however, this question is a bit more difficult to answer.

The solution, however, is fairly easy to find and unfortunately the answer lies in the hands of employers. While employees as a whole are not faultless, you cannot tar every single employee with the group brush. For each and every person in the workforce, the desire to be happy at work is a given. We spend so many hours at work that the need to be happy is almost intrinsic. At the end of the day, the relationship is not between employee and company but between the employee and the boss, personal, one-on-one relationships.

Towards the end of 2017, widely regarded as a very bad year for the global economy, a number of articles appeared on LinkedIn regarding the relationship between bosses and staff. One of the many authors was Oleg Vishnepolsky, Chief Technical Officer at the Daily Mail Online. Although he uses anecdotes to embellish his stories, and his content was mainly aimed at how employers hold the key to solving the problem, his overall message was powerful.

He focuses on the mutual relationship between loyal employees and their bosses. This is not to say that all employees are loyal, but generally employees start out as loyal – they appreciate the opportunity given to them – until it is proven to them that their loyalty is not appreciated or mutual. The onus falls on the boss to create and maintain the atmosphere of mutual loyalty. Thereafter it is up to the employee to remain loyal.

He lists six points which bosses should bear in mind when dealing with employees. You may not agree with all of them, but some should be cast in stone.

1)Take their problems on as your own.
2)Be there for them when they need you.
3)Defend them, even when it is not easy.
4)Create an atmosphere of appreciation and mutual trust.
5)Never patronise them and never criticise them in public.
6)Create opportunities for them, not rules.

Employees are not exempt from his wisdom. For loyal employees he lays down four guidelines:

1)Care about success – of the team, the boss and yourself.
2)Tell the boss what he needs to hear, not necessarily what he wants to hear – (but do it respectfully).
3)Never disagree with your boss in public, and always support his decisions publicly.
4)Work hard and be dependable.

Bosses must always remember that they are leaders, this means that the level of responsibility on them is greater than on their employees and they must, therefore, consider things on a larger scale. Feelings should have less of a place in their decisions. Oleg commented, ‘If we are not ready to be loyal to our loyal employees, we are not ready to lead them.’

The second author to speak out at the end of 2017 about treatment of employees was Brigette Hyacinth. She is a leadership expert and motivational speaker. She is the author of ‘The Edge of Leadership: A Leader’s Handbook for Success’, and three other related titles. She is also the Founder of MBA Caribbean Organisation which specialises in seminars and workshops in leadership, management and education. Her most powerful comment is, ‘Employees are your most valuable resource.’

Brigette quotes a number of leading entrepreneurs who have become known for their focus on their employees. She quotes Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin group who stated, ‘Put your staff first, your customers second and your shareholders third.’ JW Marriott Jr, Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Marriott International, one of the largest lodging companies in the world with 700 000 employees is quoted as saying, ‘Take good care of your employees, and they’ll take good care of your customers, and the customers will come back.’

Brigette stated, ‘Employees are the backbone of any organisation, in order to remain strong in an industry, employees have to be kept happy. Charity begins at home. If you want to get the best out of your employees – put them first.’

The relationship between employers (bosses) and employees will always be a tenuous one. While bosses have to put their personal feelings aside when dealing with employees, the employees on the other had, base all their reactions to their bosses on their feelings. In addition, in the eyes of the law, employees appear to have greater rights than employers.

It is important then, to consider that unhappy employees can have a detrimental effect on your company. Their ‘mood’ can result in lower productivity, actual losses – whether financial or in goods, damage to property, goods or personnel health and safety. They can also cause damage to the company reputation whether through public platforms such as newspapers or social media, or through direct future contact with customers.

While ensuring that your staff is well-compensated for the work that they do, is one way of ensuring that they remain loyal – everyone wants to think that they are paid their true worth – it is not the only way. Unsolicited words of thanks or encouragement go along way to boost morale and a sense of accomplishment. This is just as important for staff doing only what is expected of them, as it is for those going the extra mile. On the other hand, ignoring additional effort and above-and-beyond contributions, can instantly destroy all loyalty.

Employees – Remember, this is a two-way street, you have to respect your boss, he is in the position he currently holds because of the sacrifices he has had to make to get there and the bosses he has had to deal with over the years.

Bosses – Remember, at some point in all our lives we were the lowly employee and we had to ‘suffer’ under the iron fist of a boss who we disliked – try not to succumb to the same power-hunger which made that person a bad boss. Also, be prepared to do as much or more than your staff. This will demonstrate your commitment to the team rather than to your position and title.

Carlos Slim Helú, a Mexican business magnate, engineer, investor, and philanthropist and currently the seventh-richest person in the world – according to Forbes – is quoted by Brigette as saying, ‘Treat your employees well – as if one day, you will report to them.’

A mutually respectful and loyal team comprising staff and the bosses who lead them, can become virtually unstoppable. This benefits everyone not just the top of the pyramid.

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