The Enthusiastic Workplace, Part II: Equity
“Enlisting the willing cooperation of a workforce in achieving the aims of an enterprise is impossible unless people have a sense of elemental fairness in the way they are treated.” ~ The Enthusiastic Employee, page 11.
In this second article of the four-part series on enthusiasm in the workplace, the focus is on the first of three basic needs employees must get from their workplaces in order to be happy and productive – equity, which the authors of the book quoted above define in relation to work as “To be treated justly in relation to the basic conditions of employment.” Equity can be further broken down into three primary aspects as follows:
- Safe Working Environment: Safety is one place where most employees do expect the ultimate effort from employers. The more potentially dangerous the work undertaken, the more employees expect safety to be a top priority, and rightfully so.
- Reasonable Workload: If you really want to see people get upset, give them more work than they could ever possibly get done. No one’s happy when they feel like there’s no way to keep up with what’s expected of them. It’s a sure recipe for conflict between employees and management.
- Reasonably Comfortable Working Conditions: Most workers don’t expect their work environment to be perfect, but they at least need to be comfortable enough to be productive and get their jobs done.
- Reasonable Degree of Job Security: The interesting thing here is that workers aren’t naïve. They understand that there’s no such thing as a lifetime of guaranteed employment. It’s more about what happens when people are laid off. What makes people angry is when layoffs occur haphazardly, or when the company is clearly profitable but looking to cut costs further, or when layoffs are handled poorly and without sensitivity. It’s when companies value short-term gains over and above the people who help make it happen that workers get angry.
- Satisfactory Compensation: It’s easy to assume that people are simply never satisfied with their pay, but the data tell a different story. Over time, nearly half of all workers report they are satisfied with their pay, around a quarter express dissatisfaction, with the rest being neutral.
- Satisfactory Benefits: Similar to compensation, a surprising number of employees are generally okay with what they get in terms of benefits. There’s no smoking gun here, either.
- Treated with Respect: Workers want to be treated like responsible adults, not like children or criminals. Things tend to go sour to a greater degree when workers are closely scrutinized or tightly monitored. When people aren’t treated in a respectful manner, anger builds up over time and can eventually manifest as explosive conflict between workers and management.
- Reasonable Accommodation of Personal/Family Needs: There’s a lot of leeway here, which is why the word “reasonable” appears. When an emergency comes up, people expect to be given a chance to do what they need to do, which may mean extra time off over and above what’s normal.
- Credible, Consistent Management: It’s a basic human need to be able to trust the people whose actions impact your life. In the workplace, this translates into the behaviors of management toward the workforce. What sets people off are cases when management isn’t clear or truthful about important matters that affect the company and its employees. Withholding information only leads to anger and paranoia on the part of workers.
- Fair Hearing of Complaints: What happens to people who have legitimate complaints about something in the workplace? Are they treated seriously? Are they brushed off and ignored? Is retaliation against complainers tolerated? How this is dealt with in a company is a clear indicator of its overall approach to and opinion of its workers.
When it comes to achieving enthusiasm in the workplace, you can see from what’s outlined above that there are many critical factors to consider, but it’s also not rocket science. Treat your employees well and they’ll be enthusiastic in their work. In part of three of this series, I’ll be taking a closer look at the role achievement plays in creating an enthusiastic workplace.
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