In their book, The Invisible Employee, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton estimate the cost of employee turnover in America to be 1.7 trillion dollars annually. That’s a huge drain on American businesses. They also cite studies which point out that the biggest single reason people quit their jobs is the behavior of their immediate bosses–they were either abusive, didn’t care about them, didn’t listen, didn’t notice or appreciate what they did or were only out for themselves. Believe it or not, there’s good news in all of this. If American businesses would simply teach their supervisors and managers how to interact more positively with the people who work for them, they could reclaim the lion’s share of that 1.7 trillion dollars. We’re talking about basic behaviors like being nice instead of nasty or indifferent, noticing the things employees do and saying thank you. These behaviors don’t sound all that profound, but if the majority of supervisors and managers in America effectively executed these behaviors, it would fatten the bottom lines of American businesses by more than a trillion dollars–now that is profound.
When it comes to impacting people’s lives, nothing is more powerful than kindness. As Albert Schwietzer once said: “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust and hostility to evaporate.” Leo Buscaglia put it this way: “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, and honest compliment or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Henry James echoed these sentiments when he said: “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” Kind acts are what we were put on this planet to do. They require very little effort, but they have the power to change people’s lives. On top of that, kind acts have a homing quality; they always seem to find their way back to the person who performed them. Highly effective bosses have figured this out–kindness is a big reason for their success.
The secret to being an effective boss is to recognize that people intentionally regulate the amount of effort they put into their jobs based upon how they feel they’re being treated. If they feel they’re being treated well, they will become excited about giving their absolute best efforts which means they’ll work way beyond their job descriptions. If they feel their efforts are unappreciated they’ll pull back and do only what they have to do to keep their jobs. And, if they feel they’re being abused, they’ll either figure out some clever way to get even or they’ll look for a job somewhere else. The lesson here is that if you treat your people well–treat them with respect and show them you care–they’ll return the favor by making you look like a genius as their boss.
Negative bosses who make nasty comments to belittle or suppress those who work for them are a tremendous drain on the productivity of a business. The problem is that negative comments are hurtful and almost always ruin people’s days. When this occurs, it immediately sucks away people’s energy and now they are no longer able to apply their best effort toward doing their job. A friend of mine who is a manager recently told me that he receives at least one degrading email a month from one of his superiors. “When this happens,” he said, “I completely shut down for the rest of the day.” Let’s assume that 29 other employees received similar emails from that same person. If each of them responded by shutting down for a half-day, that’s 15 days of lost productivity each month all because of one thoughtless email! The message here is: If you have negative people working at your company, especially if they’re in supervisory or managerial positions, don’t ignore them. You need to find a way to get them rehabilitated or get rid of them because they’re a luxury you simply can’t afford.