• M Mouse

    You missed the corollory to number 6. Punishment for trivial ‘bad behaviour’. If the annual apprasal time is an exercise in searching for something, anything, to mark someone down for then there is no incentive for the employees to do a better job – they’ll be punished for doing a bad one anyway.

  • RolePoint

    Very good post, David. You mentioned that employees don’t know how to make the biggest contribution. I agree. But if you’re looking for an easy way to get your employees involved in other areas of the company while providing incentives, try implementing an employee referral program. It’s highly likely that your business has jobs open right now — so use your employees’ brain power and personal networks to find awesome talent while encouraging collaboration within the company and providing prizes for referral-to-hires. In my experience, this works well for both sides of the table.

    • HumanNatureAtWork

      Absolutely! It’s also a great litmus test and source of information re: the work experience you provide–i.e. if employees don’t refer their friends and family, somethings wrong. Smart employers ask their employees “Would you recommend working here to your friends and family…and if not..what do we need to do to make it a resounding ‘yes”!”

      • stephenbooth

         Unfortunately in many disengaged work forces you’d get an automatic ‘Yes’ when you asked if if they would recommend the company to a friend.  How else are they going to answer?  They’re terrified of being sacked or being in the next round of layoffs.  I used to listen to the podcasts on Manager Tools (still do the older ones, I gave up when they became too Political).  One of the things they talked about there is the neon sign on every manager’s forehead.  If you are a manager you can see it, your spouse can’t see it, your boss can’t see it, your peers can’t see it, in fact the only people who can see it are the people who report to you.  This sign reads “I am your boss and can take away your ability to feed, clothe and house yourself and your family.”  Everytime you speak to them it lights up.  When you ask a question like “Are you happy here?” or “Would you recommend working here to a friend or family member?” it even flashes and plays a little tune (the opening bars of Bach’s Toccata and Fuge in D minor) followed by the sound of a pink slip hitting a desk.  It would take a suicidely brave or galactically stupid direct to say “Actually I’m not really happy here and I don’t think I could honestly recommend workign here to a friend or family member.  Sorry.”

  • Seth McColley

    Excellent post, David! Every single one of these points supports why so many people in today’s workforce are malemployed – those who are employed but absolutely miserable what they’re doing and/or who they’re doing it for.

  • Doc Arnett

    Wham!! I’ve seen the truth of these points from various roles and vantage points in the organizations for which I have worked… and been guilty of a few violations myself. Thank you for this thought-provoking and insightful article.

    • HumanNatureAtWork

      HI Doc,
      Thanks for your comment. Would love to hear more about your observations. If you want to be interviewed, let me know. David@Humannatureatwork.com

  • Trappercat

    Exactly true – I think I’ve worked under all these circumstances during the 30 years of my career, it is probably why I haven’t stayed with any one position for more than 2 years.

  • http://twitter.com/oliveicarlos Carlos E Oliveira

    Awesome, David! Thanks for the Tips. When they’re implemented, they work wonders.

  • http://twitter.com/RoseMontInst RoseMontInstitute

    Great points. One suggestion: stop referring to people at the top as “leadership” when the behaviors they demonstrate are clearly anything but. “Senior managers” or “Senior executives” would speak more to their role. Leadership is a set of behaviors that result in people following you — and I think that getting this to happen is the whole point of your well-presented piece.

  • http://twitter.com/HRevangelist HR Evangelist

    Great article. The sad thing is that this is not “rocket science” and yet so many organizations completely miss out on the tremendous impact that these “common sense” approaches can have.

    • HumanNatureAtWork

      Thanks for your compliment and so true re: “It’s not rocket science”. I’m going to address that in a “general” comment” so hopefully others will read it and post their thoughts.


  • HumanNatureAtWork


    So true re: “it’s not rocket science and yet so many organizations completely miss out on the tremendous impact these common sense approaches can have.”

    I’ve thought a lot about this issue over the years, more specifically “Why don’t we do more of what we know from experience–and common sense– works, when it comes to bringing out the best in employees?”

    Here are my thoughts and I’d love to hear other’s take on this…

    1. For some people, it actually IS rocket science. I remember a VP of f IT, who was a rare combo of exceptionally high EQ and high technological expertise, respond to my comment; “Sometimes I feel a bit embarassed talking about these practices which lead to employee engagement because they’re kind of obvious. They’re not exactly rocket science.” She said: “You need to remember, to a lot of the people you’re addressing, it IS rocket science.” Just as somebody who is tone deaf can’t hear things that others can, people who are low in the EQ realm might not get what to most would be obvious re: the treatment of others.
    2. Part of human nature is the desire for quick fixes and magic bullets, rather than doing hard work– Thus, managers look for management fads for answers and put on gimmicky events  rather than doing the hard work of say, engaging employees in critical conversations,  holding people accountable, or working with employees to create an intrinsically motivating work experience.
    3. I believe that in many organizations and in many people’s careers, being treated in an impersonal, inconsiderate, and often disrespectful way  becomes experienced as “normal. Because of this, people become desenstized to the human element at work, and so managers end up oblivious to the emotional fallout and performance consequences of their actions.  They forget that having your opinion listened to is important, or feeling like your work matters is important, etc. Because they have become so “all business” and walled off from their feelings, they become unaware of others’ and their impact on others.
    4. Many people have had old school command and control management modeled for them, so even though they haven’t liked being on the receiving end, that’s all they  know, so they use the same approach now that they are managers.

    What other reasons do you believe account for common sense not being practiced in the realm of leadership and management?

    • Karen Zmitrovitch

      I think another reason that common sense is not being practiced in the realm of leadership and management is because common sense is not taught as a subject. Of course, some people are practicing common sense in leadership and management, but when explaining your reasons or reasoning for a particular decision or action, it is awkward for most to explain, “because it was common sense.” In today’s environment when credentials are so highly valued and the trending theory du jour is the basis for modeling business solutions; common sense seems too plebian an explanation. Or worse, expressing common sense as justification could sound condescending.

      I often wonder; “Why don’t we do more of what we know from experience–and common sense– works, when it comes to bringing out the best in ______” ( Fill in the blank with children, family, personal affairs, whatever)  Common sense does not seem to hold a very high postion in our society.

      Much of what works to arrive at common sense conclusions stems from applying the “golden rule” ( do unto others…) or imagining yourself in the other’s position. At least that is how I have attempted to bring others into consensus on what I felt was a common sense decision. I am still surprised how asking someone to take a look at a situation through another person’s point of view will suddenly open their mind to see a clear common sense conclusion.

      Common sense is an old-school value; not very interesting to most as topic, but it is something I have practiced for it’s wonderful simplicity and the quality of results.

  • Cord Himelstein

    Great article. The statement “What we appreciate appreciates. What we take for granted depreciates.” really stood out to me.

  • Kathyp

    First of all I disagree.  Management does not reward people success.  They expect their employees to do well, but Management gripes about the hard times and does not try to raise salaries or give any incentives.  I have been with a company for a long time.  All I have to offer employees is a kind word that they are doing a good job.  Management has gotten stingy and does not give raises on a yearly basis nor more time off if they cannot afford raises.  Kind words and encouragement can just last for so long and then the best employees give up.  I wish I could tell all companies to do some incentive each year to keep morale up, but most companies are selfish and want to keep every dime for themselves.

    • littlebear2

      So true.
      I have seen many instances when a company has a tough year, and employees understand and are willing to “tighten the belt”, and forego a raise.
      The problem comes when the company does it year after year. It becomes a situation where the employees hear the “tough financial times” excuse at raise time, and their salary remains stagnant year after year.
      However the salaries offered to new hires increases because the company feels it needs to compete for new talent. In the 90’s, the best way to get a raise was to change jobs. Another company will place a higher value on your experience than your employer.
      It demonstrates how the mindset of companies has changed. All investment, and planning are short-term. There is very little thought being given to the long-term relationship between company and employee. If your company doesn’t value its employees, they will find a competitor who will.

  • Dglusk

    Thought provoking – glad I took time to read this article; and, haven’t we all lived it ?-

  • stephenbooth

    I remember reading a while back that the most dangerous thing about incompetant people, especially incompentant people with any degree of power, is that they don’t know they’re incompetant.  Indeed the more incompetant someone actually is the more likely they are to think they are highly competant as they aren’t competant enough to have self doubt, often the most self doubting people are the ones who are in fact the most competant as their self doubt leads them to review their plans before and the results after.

    There are a lot of managers who will look at that list and say, “I’m doing all that, my staff must be really engaged and if they’re not it’s their fault.  I need to sack them and get new staff.”  Until someone comes in and, metaphorically speaking, smacks them between the eyes and leads them by the nose to what they should be doing they won’t and, actually, can’t change.

  • Albert Greene63

    Showing your employees respect is by far the most effective way to
    show them they matter. Not everyone can or should see the whole picture.
    Some things need to be kept on a need to know basis. That being said,
    Managers who train their staff and communicate effectively to them without the smoke and mirrors
    can win over their employees and retain the good ones. Show them how their contribution has made
    the team successful. Give praise when warranted and show genuine appreciation for their efforts.
    When bad economic times come, you will have their support. Remember as well to
    encourage your employees to move up the ladder with your support. Once they know you are
    interested in their personal success, they buy into the Company’s goals as well.

  • a damn good manager

    I work in retail & my husband works in restaurant / bar industry. 1-7 sounds like a lasy, whining employee full of excuses that wants to get praise for just showing up. Let’s not forget the employees applied for the position & accepted the position.

    • Excepted the position…

      It’s spelled ‘lazy’.

  • David Hunt, PE

    When you refer to people as “assets”, and “talents”, you create an atmosphere where people understand they are viewed as things, not people – and they react accordingly.


    When you have managers who come into a group, and a priori decide that some people need to go – and so begins the farce of poor reviews, an “improvement plan”, and false hope – people react accordingly. (This is happening to a friend of mine right now… he’s busting his butt; his new boss started out not wanting him, and has ruthlessly made sure to create a paper trail to justify my friend’s dismissal.)

    When you have MBAs in the “corner office” wiping out divisions, hiring foreign workers to come in, be trained by the extant people, and then return to their home countries as those workers who trained them are then let go, people see this and react accordingly.

    When a manager jokes about performance reviews being the “employment continuation awards”, people react accordingly.

    People judge by actions, not by words. You want loyalty, you need to give it to them first.


  • Michael Miller

    Great article. A lot of these problems can be addressed by taking the time up front – in the recruitment process – to better understand individual temperaments, or behavioral nature; what the blueprint for success is in the role; and how that fits with culture. If we know those three things going in, the chance of making a good hire go up, and that same insight can help managers effectively coach and develop.

    How many companies can paint you a picture of the type of person who thrives in their organization? And how many create detailed job profiles to know what type of person will succeed in a given role?

    It’s a little work up front for a big payoff down the road.

  • ICare

    The immediate leaders/supervisors in each company/corporate have a great impact to their employees. How they treat or lead employees constitute the employees’ behaviors and reactions. Therefore, when employers see employees who are not that into them, they should really need to check on the leaders/supervisors first.

    In my career, I’ve observed and seen some leaders/supervisors who lead and manage with passions and integrity, so the employees learn from them and follow happily. They can go extra miles voluntarily anytime.

    I’ve also seen some leaders/supervisors who are very rude, trying to use their position to intimidate the employees. They waste so much times to organize many unnecessary meetings (which should be better used for everyone to working on the real job) to “educate”, which actually like to brainwash and threaten and scare the employees off. And they probably have good ways to convince their boss that the employees would have to listen to them. It does not work that way. The result is they turn the good employees to be sick, and most of the employees become disengaged to the organization. That’s the problems of those leaders/supervisors.

  • JLKW

    I am a small business owner. However I spent a good 20 years working for large business and did encounter both good and bad managers/supervisors. I have tried to take the best things I learned from the good managers/supervisors and learned what not to do from those bad managers/supervisors when I became a small business owner. However, I guess I feel that while I do have a role to play in motivating, engaging and encouraging employees – that the employees today do not feel they have a role to play in being motivated, engaging themselves and offering anything to me as their employer. While I may not always have the dollars to give financial incentives, I do attempt to compensate for that shortfall by letting them off early when I can and if they need a bit of extra time during lunch for something letting them have. However, when I ask them, for example, to perform a task that involves math, they turn up their noses and say they do not like math and drag their feet. Then because I need it finished I take it on and finish it myself. Basically I have noticed that when they do not like to do something, they have “trained me” to do it for them. While I agree that a lot of things can be avoided if during the interview process you are clear and concise about what is expected and take a good look at the attributes and abilities of the person sitting in front of you. I believe that if you tell the person the job will involve having math skills and they indicate they have those skills or are willing to learn them – then when it comes time to perform they decide what they want to do and do not want to do. I guess as a business owner and manager, I am worn out by everything I am attempting to do for employees and am coming to the conclusion that if I end up doing the work myself and working 14 hour days and weekends, why am I paying employees and expending all of this energy. The employee is the person that asked to be hired, why when they get hired do they not want to perform? In my case this is not a training issue as I spent a lot of time creating training manuals and an on-boarding process to make sure a new hire is fully introduced to everything related to how to perform their duties. As a small business I do not have the big community action campaigns, but I do believe in and encourage giving back to the community and exhibit that in providing opportunity to participate. I was always taught that this, like any relationship, is a partnership between employee and employer. While I do listen and encourage employees to come up with better ways or different ways to accomplish things, I can not always implement everything everyone comes up with. So when I can not implement something I explain why and the result is the employee gets an attitude with me. I guess I simply feel like I am on the losing end of the employee and employer relationship. Employees simply want a place to come every day and do not want to be held responsible for having to do anything unless they want to do it that day and they want paid top dollar for it. Oh, and they want to leave early, take long lunches, talk on their cell phones and have Fridays off. I agree with what is being said in this article and that Management has a responsibility to engage employees – like parents have a responsibility to engage children – but at what point is it enough and the employees realize they have a role to play in all of this and everything can not be they way they want it everyday?