7 Ways to Keeping Employees Committed
If you’ve ever been married, chances are you were madly in love when you decided to become engaged. And, you probably thought that magical feeling would last a lifetime. Spoiler alert – it doesn’t. In the article “The Three Phases of Love” psychologist Daniel G. Amen explains that our bodies naturally shift out of the lovey-dovey mode after about a year because of self-preservation. In other words, we can’t handle the hormonal overload that causes that magical feeling for much longer than that.
I propose (pun intended) that this phenomenon occurs in work relationships as well. When we hire someone or accept a job offer, we’re often enamored with each other and think that feeling will last. Once again, it doesn’t.
It seems to me that successful relationships at home and at work require many of the same things. If you want your significant other and your employees to stay committed to the relationship, here are some suggestions on how to make that happen:
Lead by example. This is the most basic leadership principle to me and it applies to every relationship. At home: if you want love, you need to give love. At work: if you want employees to devote themselves to you, you need to devote yourself to them. For example, I coached a supervisor once who complained that his employees didn’t always follow safety rules, such as wearing their hard hats. This made him angry because they weren’t doing what he told them to do. I asked him if he always wore his hard hat when he was supposed to. Guess what his answer was. The “do as I say and not as I do” philosophy won’t get you the results that you want in any relationship.
Communicate. I believe that miscommunication and the lack of communication are the sources of many of our personal and professional problems. Because human nature abhors a vacuum (i.e. we can’t stand emptiness so seek to fill it), when we don’t talk about things with others, they’ll make things up to fill the void. At home: if your significant other asks you where you’ve been for the last hour and you respond “here and there,” they’ll probably think you’ve been up to no good wherever it is you’ve been. At work: if you don’t provide information to your employees about things that affect them, they’ll imagine the worst case scenario. Communication is essential to our well-being; our relationships can’t be well without it.
Give praise and recognition. In his article “Why We’re Nicer to Strangers Than the People We Love Most” Dr. Alex Lickerman says, “We have the least tolerance for the negative qualities of those with whom we spend the most time.” In other words, we stop seeing the great things the people we spend time with do and start focusing on the tiny things that drive us crazy. At home: constantly criticizing your significant other for leaving wet towels on the floor and never saying anything about how hard they work makes them feel unloved. At work: only providing negative feedback and never acknowledging employees’ accomplishments makes them feel unappreciated. Psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized that we all have a need for praise and recognition and I agree. When that need is unmet, it damages us and our relationships.
Be available. Absence might make the heart grow fonder, but it can also destroy relationships. And, just because someone is physically present doesn’t mean that they’re mentally and emotionally available. At home: if you always have somewhere else to be or if you aren’t really listening when your significant other talks because your mind is elsewhere, they’ll probably think you don’t love them. At work: if you’re rarely around, unavailable when you are there, and can’t pay attention when your employees talk to you, they’ll think you don’t care about them. Being present, both physically and mentally, is essential to good relationships.
Clarify expectations. We often think that people have the same world-view that we do, so we fail to communicate what we want and need from them. At home: you expect your significant other to take out the trash and become frustrated when it doesn’t happen. You didn’t ask them to take it out, but you shouldn’t need to, right? So, you get mad and they get hurt. At work: you expect your employees to complete some task and become frustrated when it doesn’t happen. You didn’t ask them to complete it, but you shouldn’t have to, right? So, you get mad and they get hurt. Newsflash: no one knows what’s in your head but you. Clarifying your expectations helps others to meet them and helps prevent you from being disappointed.
Demonstrate interest and concern. This really is a no-brainer at home and at work. If you don’t show an interest in others, they won’t be interested in you. How does one show interest? First, put your phone down and don’t look at it during conversations. Next, really pay attention and acknowledge what’s being said. Then, show you care about what was said by saying something like, “I understand why that made you angry,” or “You must have felt good about that.” We tended to do this before cell phones were invented, remember? If you indicate your phone is more interesting than the people you’re talking to, those people will take their interest elsewhere.
Be honest. Another no-brainer. Why would the people at home or at work be honest with you if you’re not honest with them?
The actions above seem so simplistic, yet it appears that lots of people don’t do them at home or at work. According to the American Psychological Association, 40 – 50 percent of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. And, according to Susan M. Heathfield, a management, and organizational development consultant, the number one reason employees leave organizations is because of their relationship with their boss.
If you want others to stay committed to a relationship with you after the giddy newness of it is gone, you need to commit to them. Otherwise, you might find yourself alone.