Training & Development

Quint’s Column: Don’t be a victim

Quint Studer at the public input sessions for the future Studer Community Institute building. Credit: Barrett McClean.

There is no doubt that the success or failure of any company starts at the top. There’s a lot of pressure there.

The direct supervisor plays a key role in how engaged the workforce is. However, to truly create a great workplace, everyone must play a part, not just the leadership.

It is very easy for organizations to believe the entity’s success is only the responsibility of leadership. I have thought about this often lately and it usually leads me back to one question: What is the employee’s role in making a company successful?

Bottom line: The employer and employee need to have a reciprocal relationship where both are invested in success.

Years ago, a friend of mine heard a group of employees talking negatively about where they worked. He did not think much about it until he read that the company was going out of business. Maybe the employees had nothing to do with it. Maybe they did.

Recently, I was in a small store and there was one person working. The woman was behind the counter with a phone out, looking down instead of being attentive to customers. When my wife Rishy and I walked in, the person looked up and said, “Can I help you?” It was the first time we were in the store, so we said we are just looking.

“Let me know if we have questions,” she said, looking back at her phone.

We spent a few minutes looking around and walked out.

If that employee had come out from behind the counter and asked if this was our first time in the shop, it would have made a big difference. After we said yes, she could have said, “Let me show you around” and explained things, or maybe told us about what the store offers.

I bet we would have bought something. At minimum, we would have spoken highly of the store and gone back another time.

Owners pour their life savings and work into a business. A good workforce can make or break a company.

What are an employee’s responsibilities in work beyond showing up?

— Read. Communication is always a big “needs improvement” item on employee engagement surveys. I have seen leaders go to great lengths to create emails, newsletters and communication boards to make sure staff know what is going on. Here is the problem: Employees don’t take time to read them. They may even say they get too many emails to read.

If employees just took as much time to read this information as they spent on social media, I bet communication would not be an issue when it comes to getting information.

— Know the company’s products and locations. In my columns, I write that a good leader takes time to know the employees. A good employee takes time to know the products. Have you ever been shopping and asked an employee to help find something? Some employees tell you where to go in the store to find the item. Some employees point in the direction you should go. Some employees, “Say let me take you there.” Guess who creates the most sales?

— Be Positive. Look for how you can make things better. Speak positively in the community about where you work. Encourage people to use our company’s products, or shop at your place.

— Don’t gossip. It can be hard not to jump in the company’s gossip pool. Don’t go there. Remind your co-workers that gossiping is bad for them and bad for the company. I am always amazed how the employees who most often complain about being short of help, seem to have the most time for gossiping.

— Don’t fall into the victim trap. Take control of your own work performance and be the best you can be.

— If you are not happy, take steps to leave. In a tough job market this may be hard. We are not in a robust job market. Don’t saddle your coworkers, your customers and you family with your unhappiness. I ran across a company that when it was obvious an employee was unhappy, they gave that employee a day off with pay to find another job. The deal was if you can’t find a job better than this one, then come back with a different attitude. It sent the message that if you are not happy here, it’s better if you move on.

While the leader and company must do all they can to create a culture in which employees can be engaged, it is ultimately up the employee to take ownership of their own morale.