A couple of months ago, I attended the first ever White House Summit on Working Families in Washington, DC. While many of the President’s opponents saw the Summit as a publicity stunt or a way to cater to the democratic base, the Summit focused on several themes such as paid family medical leave, workplace flexibility, paid sick leave, and much more. Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress, spoke eloquently about her experience in “Winning the Boss Lottery”. Weeks later, her speech continues to resonate with me, but this time for more personal reasons.
The weekend I left for the Summit, my sister suffered a stroke which has left her paralyzed on the right side, and I am thankful for the ability to work predominately online which allows me the flexibility to be there for my family when needed. Fortunately, my brother-in-law works at Stuken, a wonderful company, which has never penalized their family for having life changing events throughout his years of employment. Again needing time off of work after dealing with an illness of his own, I asked him if he was concerned about losing his job, and he replied, “not at all”. While staying at the hospital with my sister, a delivery guy walked in with a big bouquet of flowers, and the card read, “Wishing you well from the Stuken Family”.
How many of you are confident that your job would not be in jeopardy if you suffered a life changing event such as a taking care of an elderly parent, chronically ill child, cancer diagnosis, a stroke, car accident, workplace accident or other serious illness? Would a life changing event derail your fast track to promotion, encourage your boss to identify ways to relieve you from your position, or will you have to choose between saving your job, unemployment, or not being there for your family?
Not everyone can work for a company like Stuken, but supervisors, bosses, and policy makers within a company have the ability to craft a workplace culture to support their employees whether they are experiencing a life changing event or not. Having a great boss shouldn’t carry the same odds as winning the Powerball, but when you hit the jackpot, you definitely know when you have landed yourself a great boss and a good company to work for.
I hit the boss lottery once, and I am going to share with you why I stayed with a company for 10 years despite outgrowing the position five years earlier.
A great boss and company….
1. Measures Progress and not Process
This is the first step where a lot of supervisors and bosses go wrong. Those who obsess about the steps you make to complete the job versus having the skills to develop measurable outcomes and ways to monitor progress tend to stifle creativity and ingenuity in their employees. A great leader surrounds him/herself with employees who excel in areas they are weak, and their ability to see the bigger picture in order to accomplish the mission and goals of the team is what makes them an excellent leader.
Bosses who fail at being good leaders are insecure in their own ability and will often perceive a great employee as a threat instead of an asset. As a result of having leeway in how I handled my investigations, I was able to identify a security flaw their current computer system was not programmed to look for which saved the company a fortune in future losses.
2. Understands Quid Pro Quo (This for That)
A great boss doesn’t treat their employees as a resource to siphon off in order to make themselves look good. They invest in your development as an employee. My boss use to say, “When you shine, I shine”, and this was the philosophy in which she ran her department which had zero turnover. A position did not open up until after my sixth year, but it was only because someone retired. During this time, I was given access to training and a security clearance higher than most supervisors above me. My base pay was meager, but my bonuses often exceeded my base pay. For every loss I prevented, prosecuted or recovered, the company paid me a percentage in a bonus because they understood the cost benefits analysis of having motivated investigators. Most importantly, it made me feel like a valued member of the team.
Another area bosses fail is when they utilize a quota system to measure an employee’s performance to determine whether the employee will keep their job or not. Quota performance metrics will drive employees to meet the minimums because their pay will be the same no matter the input, in addition, quota systems increase liability, risk-taking, and stress for the employee and the company.
Today, many employers treat employees as if they should be grateful to have a job which ultimately is terrible for their bottom line. If a company would reinvest into an employee discount, benefits, or bonus plan instead of increasing their acceptable losses, productivity would go up while losses would go down. Believe me, as evident in my former job investigating employees, employees will find a way to offset the bad behavior of their boss/employer.
3. Knows Workplace Flexibility Is A Necessity
My boss, as well as her boss, were both outcomes driven in how they assessed employee performance. As long as the job was done within ethical boundaries, they didn’t stress how we got it done. When it came to needing time off, scheduling, leaving earlier, or dealing with a family crisis, the ability to take care of our family was given equal importance to getting the job done. From the time I started until they both retired, we were given the ability to set our own schedules by letting them know what days and hours we would work.
Having bosses that were invested in me as an employee as well as the well-being of my family inspired loyalty and trust. The workplace culture they cultivated inspired employee performance to go through the roof in all departments. As a result, they received lots of awards and accolades. We received lots of catered dinners, company cookouts while we worked, and my department got taken out for steak dinners a lot because we minimized the loss portion from the Profit and Loss Statement. After they retired and the workplace culture changed, employee turnover, profit losses, and employee theft also increased.
What I learned…
Mentorship and workplace culture can have a profound effect on work output and productivity. As a result of the millennial generation, more and more companies are beginning to implement workplace strategies to retain and inspire their workforce with flexible work culture, wellness, and corporate responsibility programs. Maybe you don’t have the power to change your company’s entire culture but as a manager, what can you do to change the work culture of your department to help enhance productivity?
Deona Hooper, MSW is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Social Work Helper, and she has experience in nonprofit communications, tech development and social media consulting. Deona has a Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Management and Community Practice as well as a Certificate in Nonprofit Management both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.