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Performance Vs Happiness – Is it As Simple As Basic Manners and Human Understanding?
I know not a new subject, but very important. I actually did a search for “Big G” under “Happy Staffing” and got 50,000 web pages with articles on the subject. The media has also widely reported the extraordinary lengths Google itself goes to to ensure happy working conditions for its employees.
I don’t think we need to delve too hard into the reasons why this is important, let’s face it, your staff are the lifeblood of your business, in most cases without your staff your company would be dead and on the drawing board.
Happy employees mean more revenue, better service to your customers, less employee turnover, less money spent on HR, etc.. the list goes on.
There have been research studies, internal surveys, millions of dollars spent on research and millions of dollars spent on creating such an environment with fancy tables and chairs, crèches, downtown parking, in-house cafes, etc. All great incentives that may well keep employee happiness levels near the top of the scale, but I honestly believe the real answer is much simpler and virtually free for the employer.
The problem with all the great ideas listed above is that they seem to be the only ones we read about. These research and implementations cost an awful lot of money, and there is a perception that this level of staff happiness and employee retention can only be achieved with huge budgets. With this general level of thinking, the average small and medium-sized business owner is inclined to believe that this form of staff retention is unattainable, and to agree to higher staff turnover than necessary.
I’m sure no one wants to create a work environment that is not conducive to employee satisfaction. I’m sure the vast majority of business owners would be devastated if they were told that their employees were leaving because they were unhappy or offered a better socially acceptable environment. The problem is that the employees who leave very rarely tell the owners about it, and the employees who stay there fear reprisals if they say anything. Managers and business owners need to take stock of the work environment and make sure the simple things are done to create or maintain a happy team.
There are many ways in which what we do can impact the happiness of our employees and improve our own working conditions, as well as increase our long-term profits… here are just a few of my thoughts…
Manners – Sometimes the simplicity of the solution is very intimidating, but good manners play a big role in the work environment. It’s hard not to sound condescending when you say things like this, but I know there are business owners and managers who don’t even think to say “please” and “thank you” when asking a simple task of their team member. Moreover, they do not establish the type of culture in which every staff member on the team uses such manners in communicating with their colleagues.
To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “Good manners consist of small sacrifices,” the sacrifice in this case, of course, being about three seconds. It’s amazing how some of the things you really appreciate about people you take for granted until they’re gone, or don’t appreciate as much until you’re a little older and, dare I say it, a little wiser. When I was younger in the UK I worked as a sales representative. The business owners were a husband and wife team and at times things could get a little “heated” and certainly a little stressful in the office environment.
It was a very successful firm and despite the sometimes cheeky atmosphere during the day, turnover was extremely low because you always left work feeling appreciated. To feel gratitude… every day… how many of us can say that about the roles we currently play.
How was this phenomenon achieved?
Simply put, every day when you parted ways, the wife of the business duo would look you in the eye and say, “Good morning and thank you for your hard work today,” it was sincere and from the heart. I believe she really got what I said earlier, your employees are the lifeblood of your business. I don’t think you could ever match the amount of money that the daily comments translated to when it came to the company’s profit and loss statements, but I honestly believe you would be surprised at the truth of it.
Maybe on a Monday morning, asking how someone’s weekend was and honestly listening to the answer. People want to know that you really care about their well-being.
I remember how I started working in one company, and that morning I asked the boss… “How was your weekend?”, the answer surprised me… “I don’t ask and I don’t answer such questions, because I honestly don’t care.” Needless to say, I don’t need to delve into the atmosphere of this particular environment.
Of course, it’s not just about manners, far from it, human understanding is important. Little things like when the World Cup starts, maybe offering the team half a day so they can stay up late and watch the game the night before. Yes, there are wages involved, but the high morale you will create by doing this will return the dollar value in multiples of the original cost.
Birthday cakes for staff and morning tea. What about hump day drinks? A glass of wine or beer for staff at 4.30 on a Wednesday afternoon, creating a social culture that breeds happiness and teamwork.
It’s about creating a nice culture, an environment where people want to come and not only work hard, but enjoy it, enjoy getting up in the morning and whistling “Hi ho, hi ho” on the way to work … Okay, maybe not a seven-dwarf-whistling scenario, but I hope you get my point.
Of course we’re all in business to make money, and what we talk about goes a long way toward that, but can’t we be proud of our own business environment. I remember the first time I heard one of my employees tell a headhunter that they didn’t need to stay in touch because they were perfectly happy where they were and offering them more money would be a waste of time. Brilliant feeling…
Obviously, it’s not the most important thing to make your work environment happy, but I honestly think it’s a huge part of it. I would love to hear your ideas about happiness in the workplace, maybe you have a story about what your employer does or encourages that makes you happy at work and share some positive ideas.
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