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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the February 12, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Smart Bosses Send Valentines
Valentine greetings go to sweethearts, and sometimes
to children, parents, and close friends. How about including employees
in the holiday dedicated to letting loved ones know how much they
After all, most managers spend far more time with the workers they
supervise than with the tall, handsome man — or winsome woman
— to whom they have given their hearts. A sincere expression of
appreciation could be just the thing to add new life to the manager/employee
relationship. Especially now, when there is evidence that American
workers are more dissatisfied than ever.
"The top log-in time on Monster.com is between 9 and 5 on Mondays,"
says career consultant Beverly Kaye, referring to the popular
job posting website. But while there may be rampant unhappiness in
offices across the land, few managers need worry about retention.
With the world uncertain and mass lay-off announcements making headlines
several times a week, employees are sitting tight. That leaves managers
with a problem even more serious than the always-disputive flight
"There is psychological turnover," says Kaye. Employees remain
in their seats — at least physically — but their minds and
their loyalty are elsewhere. "This is a major issue," she
says. Happily, there is a solution.
Kaye gives advice on stemming attrition of all kinds when she speaks
on "Attracting and Retaining Employees" on Thursday, February
20, at 8 a.m. at a meeting of the New Jersey Human Resources Planning
Group at the Hanover Marriott. Cost: $175. Call 973-983-8644.
Kaye has been described as the founder of the career consulting profession.
She is CEO of Career Systems International, a career training company
with 20 full-time and 30 part-time employees. To a degree, this is
a virtual company. Kaye is based in Los Angeles, her president works
from St. Louis, and the distribution center for the company’s training
materials is in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Kaye, who grew up in Passaic, graduated from the College of New
Jersey in 1965, back when it was still Trenton State. Thoroughly familiar
with central New Jersey, she says, "I used to come to Princeton
to look for men."
Her major was elementary education, but she decided, before even putting
chalk to blackboard, that the profession "did not seem exciting."
She went into college administration instead.
"I was a gung ho college kid," says Kaye. "I thought,
wouldn’t it be great to stay on campus!" And so she spent several
years as student personnel dean at Brandeis and at Pomona College
in California. When the thrill of being on campus — at least as
an employee — evaporated, Kaye went to UCLA to obtain a doctorate
in change management.
Her dissertation turned into her first book, Up is Not the Only Way!
She is also the co-author of Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People
to Stay. She uses material from her books, and from independent research,
in her talks and in her consulting work. Clients, to whom she talks
about attracting and keeping talent, include American Express, AT&T,
DaimlerChyrsler, the Mayo Clinic, Sears, and Xerox. While she has
a UCLA graduate degree behind her, Kaye says the heart of her message
comes straight from Passaic.
"It’s all about relationships," she says. That is what she
grew up hearing her father say. "`It’s all about how you treat
them,’" was the way he looked at his business. Abe Kaye, now 88
and retired, owned a liquor store in Passaic.
His wife, Mollie Kaye, 85, helped out. The pair, who
expect to attend their daughter’s upcoming talk, worked in a bad part
of town. "They were always getting robbed," says Kaye. "But,"
she adds, "the robbers were always from out of town, and their
customers always told them who the robbers were."
Such is the power of building relationships, says Kaye. Right now,
her nearly non-stop travels around the country convince her, no manager
can ignore this wisdom. "People don’t leave companies," she
says, "they leave bad managers." And leaving they are —
but mostly just in spirit.
Just back from a consulting trip to Detroit, she says psychological
attrition is on everyone’s minds. "People are putting their energy
elsewhere," she says. "The economy is such that people are
holding on to their jobs, but they are hanging on exceedingly unhappily."
During her visits to companies, Kaye discusses both physical and psychological
attrition. "The heads start nodding when I talk about psychological
turnover," she says.
The phenomenon most often manifests itself through withdrawal. "People
do what they have to do, but nothing more," says Kaye. "They
pull back. They stop giving ideas, stop sharing." Employees who
have left the room in spirit tend to leave in body early in the day,
But this is not always the case. A car may remain in the company parking
lot way past dark while its owner sits at his desk, cruising the Monster
Board, hatching plans for a start-up, or putting in "face"
time in any number of ways without contributing much.
What is the cause for the unhappiness that breeds psychological
attrition? More often than not, says Kaye, it’s the "jerk boss."
She devotes an entire chapter of her book to this breed, and is constantly
turning up new examples of the kinds of behavior that send employees
into passive/aggressive mode. She has even found that behaviors men
may tolerate well enough make women want to flee — virtually or
otherwise — and vice versa. Men, she says, absolutely can not
stand to be micro-managed, while women come unglued over arrogance.
During her career as a college administrator, Kaye encountered the
latter behavior. Her manager often told her that she wasn’t as smart
as the students in her charge. Beyond being overly critical, as this
manager was, office leaders most often go wrong by not taking the
time to give positive feedback, by showing favoritism, by blowing
up, and by failing to say thank you.
While money is on everyone’s mind, it is rarely the
reason a person leaves a job, or fails to give it his all, says Kaye.
Far more common causes of discontent include isolation, a lack of
opportunities to take on new challenges, and a feeling that effort
is not appreciated.
So much on-the-job discontent could be turned around so easily. Making
time to listen to employees’ ideas and to give feedback on their performance
could turn an office full of folks day-dreaming about quitting their
jobs into an engaged, productive group.
What better time to start the transformation than Valentine’s
Day? With this in mind, Kaye shares her a Valentine’s Day Care Package
with managers. Here are her suggestions for making employees feel
employees. Give them an opportunity to select the luncheon site, and
use the time simply to get to know them better. Tell them how critical
they are to you and the team, and ask them some questions, like: What
can I do to keep you on my team? What part of your work do you find
most enjoyable? What might make your work life easier?
conversation with an employee. Hold it in a quiet, private place or
off-site if possible. Try any or all of the following questions to
get the conversation started: What part of your current job do you
enjoy doing the most? The least? Which of your talents have I not
phone card to call family or friends, or offer to have someone design
a website for their family, and include a one-year subscription for
E-mail. Or give a free pass for a certain number of days or hours
off to attend childrens’ school programs or activities.
alternative career possibilities. Try to help that employee leverage
his options to reach his goals. Consider lateral, enrichment, vertical,
exploratory, and realignment opportunities, as well as relocation.
a free one-year subscription to an employee’s favorite business magazine
and have it sent to his home.
the employee with whom you never see eye-to-eye, the one who is the
least like you, to give you some straight talk about how you might
work better together. Yes, offer this to the one who may think you’re
a jerk. Listen very carefully. Don’t defend. Then take a step toward
changing one behavior.
Offer a unique perk for fun. Give an employee a KICKS coupon.
Tell them that this entitles them to spend up to X on a way to take
a break or have some fun at work. Or offer a menu of low-cost possibilities
and let them choose. Examples include taking an afternoon off to go
see a movie; bringing a child (or dog) to work; or ordering a pizza
and watching a video during lunch.
of someone in the organization that he would love to meet, chat with,
and learn more about. Create the link. Provide an introduction and
encourage your employee to decide on how he would like to spend time
with his chosen connection.
want to lose. Run the numbers on the cost of replacing that employee.
Now compute the cost of offering that employee some "stay here"
incentives. Think of incentives other than money, and base your list
on what you know about that person. Now set a date to chat.
do you love to do? At work? Outside of work? Brainstorm and then commit
to helping the employee build more of this into the workday.
pass that involves and encourages bending (or breaking) the status
quo. Then stay open and bend as much as you can when a request is
made. Show that you will question the rules.
local supply store for an employee to get items (no staples or paper
clips allowed) to personalize his space.
This one — the truth — is powerful. We know of one division
head who gave each employee $50, told them to choose a restaurant
and to take their manager to lunch for some straight talk and honest
feedback about performance and development needs.
— one for each month. They entitle the employee to come and talk
to you for 20 minutes about anything. Your job is to listen.
of tea, try asking one of your employees any of these questions: What
makes a perfect day at work? Looking back, what has made you the most
satisfied? What does success mean to you? Take notes. Read your notes
back to the employee. What have you both learned about his values?
How can you put that information to work.
Play" cards that they can redeem at their discretion. For example:
Leave work early and go to a movie, or play extreme Frisbee.
to lead the project that you have been hoarding for yourself. Offer
the spotlight. Yield. Coach when necessary.
the employee be thinking about how to make his manager’s life sweeter,
Yes, says Kaye. In fact, her next book — due out this summer —
is Love It, Don’t Lose It: 26 Ways to Get What You Want at Work. "Here’s
what happened," she says. "For five years, we’ve delivered
the Love ‘Em message, and managers are saying to us `don’t employees
have a role in this? Why should I have to read their minds?’
"I think they’re right," says Kaye. Employees do have a responsibility.
"Why bide your time with your head in the sand?" she asks.
"Why not make it better where you are?"
Perhaps a step in that direction could be doing a little Valentine
shopping for the boss.
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