What to Do When You Can’t Get No (Employee) Satisfaction

Satisfaction is useless and loyalty is overrated.

Your people need to be insistent. Otherwise they’re out the door.

But don’t let the buzzwords sting you.

It’s not about communicating an employee value proposition.
It’s not about encompassing a comprehensive set of change management tools.
It’s not about sweetening people up so they don’t run away after the recession is over.

If you want insistence – that is, people who bleed your company colors – you’re going to need daily, consistent actions of approachability.

Whether you’re the leader of a large company, director of a volunteer base, manager of a sales team or a high school teacher educating the faces of the future, consider these five truths about engagement. Mick Jagger, this one’s for you:1. Allow people the dignity of self-definition. When Random House decided to publish their best selling title of all time, Atlas Shrugged, the president of the company wrote a letter to Any Rand reading: “If we publish you, Miss Rand, nobody is going to try to censor you. You write anything you darn well please and we’ll publish it.”

No wonder she stayed in engaged. That’s what happens when you provide a safe haven for self-definition. On the other hand, people disengage when they’re asked to edit themselves. In business and in life.

Take hospitals, for example. In Social Interaction and Patient Care, I learned that the loss of self-identity is one of the most difficult aspects of being a patient. “Role deprivation means loss of identity,” says the book, “especially when people are reduced to the anonymity of a horizontal figure between the white sheets. They become deprived of their most significant symbols that reinforce that identity.”

Whose identity are you editing? Which of your policies and rules are suppressing the passion of your people? Find small ways to rise above standard operating procedure. Otherwise, every time your people say, “Terrific. More items to submit for approval,” they disengage just a little more. Is your organization a safe haven or an editing booth?

2. Give their truth a megaphone. People want leaders who enable their spirit. They want organizations that enable their passions. Focus on this, and it’s amazing how many other things fall into place.

Especially engagement. Because when people are never forced to restrict their interests, their passion goes from spark to flame to inferno. And it explodes through the company walls, providing warmth to everyone in its path.

If I ever had to get a real job – which I won’t – that’s the kind of place I’d want to go everyday.

Unfortunately, most organizations have been stripped of their humanness. They treat people as cogs in the assembly line – not individuals in the game called life. And their people become easily intimidated and silenced by the walls of formality, preventing them from expressing themselves freely.

And as a result, their culture, service and bottom line suffer. Don’t let this happen to your organization. Because the bloodiest crime committed in the corporate world is the subjugation of the human spirit. Is there enough evidence to find you guilty?

3. Make loving you easy. In the book I Love You More Than My Dog, Jeanne Bliss explores the power of telling people that you believe in them.

“With those three words, we honor the recipient. We give up control and return it back to the sender. And there is an energy that comes from being believed, from being trusted, and from sending that trust back to people.”

That’s how you earn the right to a continued relationship. That’s how you earn the right to have employees not just telling your story – but also convincing others to become characters in it. You love them. You believe in them. And you remind them that you do everyday. Every single day. Otherwise they’re gone.

Think of it this way: If your spouse only said she loved you once a month, you’d be divorced quicker than a contestant on Millionaire Matchmaker. Don’t let your organization become another statistic. How often are you gushing over your people?

4. People want to be treated – not handled. To treat is to respect. To love. To attend to. And to leave people feeling known, seen and heard. To handle is to manage. To manipulate. And to leave people feeling tolerated, dealt with and circumvented. Which approach do you think people prefer?

Odds are, the latter. And I bet they can tell the difference, too. Especially customers. They know exactly what it feels like to interact with someone who, five minutes before dragging his apathetic ass out on the sales floor, got a phone call from a coworker who said, “Hey, can you go handle this lady on line three?”

My suggestion is: Declare a moratorium on handling. Post signs around your office that read, “Treated, not handled.” And tell employees that anytime they use the word “handle,” they have to donate twenty bucks to the curse jar. The money will add up quickly. Hell, you could even throw a party for your customers. Maybe they’ll feel treated for once.

Remember: Handling is what you do to raw meat – treating is what you do to a work of art. Can you imagine how your organization would change if your people transformed from a gathering to a gallery?

5. Envision a more ambitious platform. Ideally, one that allows users to collaborate and resolve issues on their own. Otherwise you end up micromanaging every minor conversation. And nothing scares the engagement out of people faster than knowing they’re being constantly monitored.

The cool part is, when you give your people a forum to connect, they naturally start to convince others of your value. And you can’t beat that kind of marketing. Whether you use online boards, blogs, forums or other chat functions, the key is remembering to back off.

Sure, you can moderate. But true engagement isn’t about control – it’s about letting go. It’s not about managing the process – it’s about starting a conversation and then getting the hell out of the way.

Don’t worry: If they need you, they’ll holler. Other than that, stop hovering and let them do their thing. Are you willing to surrender the reins and show your people that you trust them enough to interact on their own?

REMEMBER: If you want your people to stick around – and stay engaged while they’re around – forget about satisfaction.

Aim for insistence.

They’ll forget the door is even there.

Are you people satisfied or insistent?

For the list called, “27 Things to Do First,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.

Now booking for 2011!

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