Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stamp Out Indifference with Common Courtesy

Indifference is one of the most common offenses that managers make toward their employees. Sure, there are bullies and narcissists, liars and crooks. But they are, luckily, the exception. What disgruntles employees the most is (probably unintentional) indifference.

What do employees want? A lot of things, sure, but at the root of them all is respect. And not acknowledging, noticing, or involving employees shows a lack of respect.

I’m not going to talk about compensation, benefits, bonuses, perks and rewards. I’m not talking about challenging work, new responsibilities and promotions. I’m not even really talking about positive feedback. All of these are important for a high functioning organization.

I’m talking about simply noticing. And letting it be known that you notice. Really, I’m talking about good manners.

Little acts of omission make a big difference, and add up to feeling like one is not valued at their workplace. Things like:

• Walking into a room and not being acknowledged.
• No “Thank you” for doing something, whether it is in your job description or not.
• Not being listened to, even when your ideas are meant to be helpful to the organization.
• Having a meeting with someone who is constantly checking their phone.
• No “Good Morning”, eye contact or nod of the head, even after you greeted the other person.

Management, distracted and overburdened, may overlook how important common courtesy is. And since you are the leaders, what you do and say is often picked up and re-generated throughout the company. If employees observe that it’s not important to acknowledge a good job, then they will perpetuate that. Soon an atmosphere of indifference permeates the department.

If there is a lot of turnover in an area, it may not be due to manager “abuse” but manager indifference. Not communicating, not acknowledging, not noticing, are all acts of omission that can create a culture of disrespect.

Quite often, the perpetuators of this indifferent behavior are not even aware of what they are doing. Managers who are not self-aware are the biggest culprits in the population of so-called “poor managers”. They just don’t realize what they are doing – or not doing – and the impact on everyone around them.

Stated in a 2006 Sirota Intelligence Survey: “While almost half of senior-level managers feel they are shown a great deal of respect, just one-quarter of supervisors and only one-fifth of non-management employees feel the same way. In fact, one out of every seven non-management employees actually feels they are treated poorly or very poorly.”

On a brighter note, in a more recent Sirota Intelligence Survey 82% of respondents (1.3 million employees of all levels were surveyed worldwide) agreed with the statement “My immediate manager treats me with respect and dignity.”

However that is a decrease of 6% from a 2009 survey. And, only 57% agreed that employees get a fair hearing for their complaints, a decrease of 7% from the year before. Fifty-six percent agreed that “Senior management’s actions are consistent with what they say”, a decrease of 5%.

For more data on the positive side, here are some areas that are trending upward:

 Normative Item (abbreviated text)
2010 % Fav

I am satisfied with the availability of the information I need to do my job


Rate the effort made by management to get ideas and opinions from employees like yourself


Top management encourages reporting important information up‐the‐line, even if it’s bad news


I have the authority I need to do a quality job


The upward trend is a positive sign, but obviously there is a lot of room for improvement. I wait for the day that the scores are in the 90’s.

Courteous behavior is a simple start. Just remember the golden rule – don’t you like to be acknowledged and noticed? Find ways to acknowledge and notice others so they will feel respected and valued. And respect is the gift that is returned almost immediately.

If you haven’t got a good 360 degree feedback system in place, devise one now. Take to heart the information you receive, and engage a coach or just a trusted colleague to help you improve. It can make all the difference in the world between being a poor manager to being a revolutionary one.

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