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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

are valued?

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 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

of talent.

"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


Private time with you. Schedule lunch dates with your

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?

An honest talk about the future. Offer to have a career

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

used yet?

Recognize your employee’s family. Give an employee a pre-paid

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.

Talk about your employee’s next move. Offer to brainstorm

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.

Nourish your employee’s professional interests. Offer

a free one-year subscription to an employee’s favorite business magazine

and have it sent to his home.

Submit to a critical employee’s "pruning." Ask

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.

A priceless introduction. Ask an employee for the name

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.

Three wishes. Think about a key employee that you don’t

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.

Work and passion. Have a passion breakfast. Ask: What

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.

An exception to the rules. Give a "bend the rules"

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.

An office shopping spree. Offer a shopping spree to a

local supply store for an employee to get items (no staples or paper

clips allowed) to personalize his space.

Listen to the truth over lunch. Talk about gift giving.

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.

A chance to download. Give 12 coupons for listening time

— one for each month. They entitle the employee to come and talk

to you for 20 minutes about anything. Your job is to listen.

Honor values. Over a cappuccino, glass of wine, or cup

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 time. Give employees a series of "Get Out and

Play" cards that they can redeem at their discretion. For example:

Leave work early and go to a movie, or play extreme Frisbee.

The starring role, for once. Give an employee a chance

to lead the project that you have been hoarding for yourself. Offer

the spotlight. Yield. Coach when necessary.

But wait, does the Valentine have to go only one way? Shouldn’t

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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