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Nobody wants to work? That’s not it.

By August 3, 2021 No Comments

As I was paying for service at a local salon, I inquired about a discount I’ve taken advantage of for the two years I’ve been visiting this location. The woman at the front desk was baffled. She hadn’t heard of said discount before. So she ran to the back to grab a manager to ask about it. The manager was equally puzzled, stating, “Most of us at the front are new, so that might be it. We just can’t seem to find people who want to work!”

I could tell she wanted me to laugh with her at that comment, but I didn’t.

It’s not that I couldn’t empathize with her or the other associate at the front. It’s not easy when customers come up asking about things you have no clue about, then you have to try and be professional while also finding the answer or someone who knows it.

But keep the asinine excuses, please.

Plenty of people are desperate to work. Bills are due, rent moratoriums are expiring, and we all have to eat. We all need shelter. We all have to move around to get our food, get to  appointments with doctors or clinicians, attend school, etc.

What nobody wants is to be taken for granted. Nobody wants to have their contributions treated like expendable line items. Nobody wants to have to abandon part of themselves when they put on a uniform, or punch a clock, or sit at a desk.

But this is a lot of what employers want.

What will it take to bring humanity back to American workplaces? Do we need unions to return? More regulations? Do the people complaining need to get over it and either find a better job or start a business?

I know it invokes a lot of apathy from people, but addressing the “little guy” might be the key to fixing a lot of the problems hurting us now. Most higher up people at corporations are out of touch; their subordinates aren’t allowed to ever tell them this, which is part of why they stay out of touch (the other part is narcissism). And frustration eventually sends those same subordinates packing after a while, leaving a new set of eyes and feet to be worn down by the boss. But my time as a manager taught me that just a little bit can go such a long way, especially across power disparities. I think executives think their subordinates want them to learn their life stories and give them warm hugs (with consent). But you don’t have to be someone’s bestie to be kind or respectful.

Three simple actions managers and leaders can take to create better communication on their teams:

  • Listen to people. Don’t just sit in silence as your subordinates speak, eager for your next turn to speak. Address direct points that are mentioned and allot adequate time for this. It’s not a good look to claim you want to hear from people, but in the middle of it you’re rushing off to an “important” call. Nonverbal cues often speak louder than the words you say.
  • Use positive reinforcement. If you’re doing this already, great. Add more. If you’re not, you’re about to become everyone’s favorite (for a second). If you want good work out of your people, you can’t just zero in on their shortcomings. Mention their strengths, too.
  • Accept that you don’t know everything. I saved the best for last. If you “rule with an iron fist,” throw people into the deep end to teach them to swim, or offer little by way of support on team projects, why are you here? This isn’t the blog for you, but thanks for the clicks! People who can’t accept being wrong are arrogant. They’re rude and hard to work with. They’re stubborn to the pace of life, which is much bigger than they are. Don’t be that kind of leader. That kind of leader makes grandiose statements about never ever leaving the company and then gets ousted when the company hits trouble. Skip over that by always remaining open.

I think that if work environments could improve, we would see a reverse in this trend of job vacancies. Of course, I am not negating the importance of livable wages and compensation, too. Nobody can pay their bills on compliments or empty promises, so don’t expect it.

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