Don’t Lose a Good Employee

A lesson learned in growing a business

Many years ago – and several lifetimes ago, it seems — I made a classic supervisory mistake.  Was I going to lose a good employee?

I must have been looking over Gary’s shoulder a little too closely – inspecting how well he had cleaned the 60-quart bowl for the bakery’s Hobart mixer.  He turned around, glared at me, and in a voice strained with frustration, started jumping up and down, arms extended upward, yelling, “This job has no dignity!  This job has no dignity! This job has no dignity!” he said, over and over.

What I learned

Gary had a way of voicing his opinions very directly:  he didn’t round off the sharp corners to soften his biting analysis of a situation.  But it wasn’t hostile or personal, either, so we were able to laugh about it later.

And I “got” it. I learned a valuable lesson which has served me well ever since that day:  that every person needs to feel a sense of dignity in their job, whether they are sweeping the floors or working with customers.  That a business owner has to give each employee some “space” in which they can come up with new ideas, learn from their mistakes, and succeed in their job.  That as a business owner, I needed to accept that my employees would probably not do everything exactly the way I did, but that this was OK. so long as they maintained reasonable standards of workmanship.

How can you apply this to your business?

How does this translate to you, if you’re a business owner?  The reason for hiring people is that you can’t do all the work yourself, if you want to grow your business.  The more you grow the sales, the more you need to hire others to perform the day-to-day work necessary to providing products or services to your company’s customers.  You literally won’t have the time to continue to “micro-manage” your people.  Learn from my mistake before you de-motivate your people – why go through the same learning curve?  You’ll be plenty busy reinventing your own job as the business grows.  And you’ll need to hire good people and learn how to help them maximize their contributions to the business  [See “Sharing the Sandbox”].

So don’t lose a good employee

Give your people the training they need to do their job, and then give them some space to do it.  Maintain accountability, but don’t take away their dignity by micro-managing and de-motivating them.

I was fortunate:  instead of quitting, this valuable employee told me that “this job has no dignity” — and I was able to make a course correction.