The Wall Street Journal once ran an article on why people are not satisfied in their job. You might be surprised to discover that the number one reason is not money. Rather, it is a lack of appreciation by those who are in the position of bestowing not only raises, but genuine positive feedback on job performance. Apparently, American businesses - for all their focus on the bottom line - have not figured out that a pat on the back, or a "job well done" memo, does more to reduce turnover than do high salaries. Given enough time and enough low moments, even the highest paid employees can end up feeling like paid prostitutes and decide that their self respect is more important than their bank account.
A friend of mine was earning a substantial amount of money, when he nevertheless recently walked away from a decades-old relationship with a company because he rarely felt validated by those for whom he toiled. It makes one wonder how a subtle yet overriding sense of feeling undervalued can propel someone to jettison the job security of a very handsome salary.
We all know there are many ways that company leaders can give off such negative vibes, but what specific kinds of action - or inaction - do they engage in that push some over the edge into self-induced unemployment?
Real life examples abound that provide a clue as to what may be going on in our glass and steel high rises. One might be the passive-aggressive act of excluding relevant employees from such activities as holiday gatherings or lunch meetings, making their absence appear glaringly obvious. Being secretive about how total compensation is determined can lead employees to believe that salaries are arrived at capriciously. Then there are executives who allow your subordinates to override your decisions for reasons of office politics. And it is certainly not an ego boost when a company informs a longtime, high producing colleague that he/she is overpaid and should get a salary reduction.
But none of this compares with being noticed only when mistakes are made, and invisible when real accomplishments are achieved. It seems that a paucity of praise to those who really do make an undeniable improvement to the company's net worth is the cut that goes the deepest. And it is why schools should reduce the excessive flurry of awards raining down on students, because they will be in for a jolt when they hit the real world. Praise, when genuinely deserved, goes a long way toward improved job performance. It seems, however, that neither schools nor businesses have gotten it right, with one going too far for undeserved praise, and the other not going far enough when it is well-earned..
My best example of getting it just right occurred when my daughter took a swimming class and had to swim laps. Each time she touched the side of the pool, her instructor was there to say, "Good job! I knew you could do it! Keep it up!" She shared this with me in an almost sheepish way, admitting that her coachï¿½s encouraging words literally gave her the strength to keep on going.
It is a simple yet remarkable example of how powerful words can be. Positive words can push people farther than even they thought capable, while negative comments can stifle the spirit and deflate one's sense of ability to perform.
For those who are the chiefs in their fields and believe that this whole topic is too touchy-feely to be worthy of boardroom discussion, think again. Businesses are acutely aware of the high cost of employee turnover. It would behoove those running the show to look around and see if a little more respect and appreciation toward those who serve them might better provide a sense of win-win for all involved.
After all, it really goes back to what we once learned in kindergarten. Be nice.