There are too many adversities that your people encounter in their everyday job activities. Those difficulties emanate from internal factors such as technical problems, process flaws and interpersonal relationships, as well as from external factors such as clients, suppliers, and other stakeholders relationships. They need your support to overcome them!
What usually happens is that they also have to deal with a disrupting relationship with you, the supervisor or the business owner. That affects their commitment to your organizations’ values and strategy. You tend to believe that your people work for you because they believe in you, but most of the times this is a misperception. They work for you because you pay them.
The reason they don’t believe in organizational values, and don’t love to work for you is because you do not protect them from harm, wherever that comes from. You just see them as value creating units not as humans, and in return they see you as an “ATM”, just having to press some buttons, to do their task and get the money.
What do you have to do is to LISTEN to their thoughts. Listen to their problems, and do it every day. They will appreciate it. And then do something about it. They will really believe in you. They will work for your organization because they will love working for someone who cares. And if someday they leave, don’t consider them ungrateful. They just want to test their strengths to chase their dreams, to challenge their opportunities. But they will always have to say some good words about you and your organization. They will be your advertisers.
Here’s a real case scenario: there was a travel agency employee who has had provided group boat tickets to a regular customer. The customer wanted to cancel the tickets, and the employee informed him that it was too late for cancelation, and that cancelation fees applied. That was the normal process, the rules set by the shipping company. However, just because he was a regular customer, the employee also said to him that he would ask his employer if there was anything they could do about it. Then the customer start yelling, saying that he would find another agency office to cooperate with. The employee remained calm, wondering if this was his fault, and if he should have handled the situation differently i.e. cancel the tickets without the penalty. But, this was something beyond his authority to decide. When the employer came back to the office, the employee informed her about the incident. Her reaction was “That is what he said! Ok, don’t worry, I’ll handle it”. She then called the customer and made it clear that he had no right to yell at her employee for doing his job, and that if he wished to find another supplier he was welcome to do so.
That was a small example of protecting your people. Difficulties are coming from everywhere. Your people just need to feel safe, that you are a cohesive team supporting one another against adversities. Of course that takes mutual respect and understanding of what each member is dealing with in their role. It also implies that each one is appropriately doing his/her job according to the organization’s values and strategy. Just remember that mistakes happen and they are a good source of learning and improvement, they are not meant to be punished. Indifference is the disruptive behaviour that should be discouraged.
Antonis Gavalas, MSc