only half of what he expects others to do. — William J.H. Boetcker
A story from Bits & Pieces tells of a manager and a sales rep standing
and looking at a map on which colored pins indicate the company
representatives in each area. “I’m not going to fire you, Wilson,” the
manager said, “but I’m loosening your pin just to emphasize the
insecurity of the situation.” That, of course, is a light-hearted
reminder of the complexity of the employer/employee relationship.
Ask most people at their place of business what they need from their
employers to be more successful or productive on the job and they will
be quick to tell you. But when you ask them what they don’t need in
order to be more productive is when things get interesting. Not long
ago I asked a group of workers what they didn’t need in order to
succeed. It was an eye-opening exercise you should try.
Writing in a Harvard Business Review blog, Gretchen Gavett reported on
the findings of the American Psychological Association’s new “Work and
Well-Being Survey.” The good news out of their report is that 70
percent of people are satisfied with their jobs. But once you look
below the surface there are a few troubling signs.
“Although almost two-thirds of employees feel their company treats
them fairly,” writes Gavett, “other aspects don’t look so good. More
than half feel like their employer isn’t open and upfront, a third
feel that their organization isn’t always honest and truthful. One in
four say they don’t trust their employer at all, and that’s a big
While intuitively we should know that open communication and trust are
essential to good employer/employee relationships it still resurfaces
as an issue to address. Knowing what your people need to succeed is
important, but also knowing what they don’t need from you will
certainly help. Here are four things to start with.
Your negative attitude
Inasmuch as positive attitudes are contagious, so are negatives ones.
If you make it a habit to circulate among your people with a bad
attitude, always finding fault, only focusing on what’s wrong, then
your presence will be a demoralizing factor. The truth be told, your
people may have every tool they need to succeed but if you have a
negative attitude then it is hindering them. Among my informal survey
this was the most cited response.
Everyone likes to be appreciated, valued, and wants to believe that
their work makes a difference. But if you come across as indifferent
to their work, ideas, and contributions then you are sending signals
that they are unimportant to you. If you place no value in your people
then how can you expect them to place value in their work?
Indifference breeds indifference and the results will be devastating.
Your leadership style will either facilitate the progress of your
people or it will stand in their way. If you burden people down with
unnecessary policies and procedures, time-wasting meetings, or
ill-timed interruptions then you are in the way. Your employees should
not be made to pay the price for your poor time management skills.
Don’t allow the “tyranny of the urgent” to be an obstruction to your
While most of your people will never speak up about this don’t mistake
it for not noticing. Inconsistent actions by management always send
the wrong message. When you communicate one thing and do another then
you have planted doubt and mistrust in the minds of your people. Your
employees don’t need mixed messages. It only creates confusion and
So, what’s the bottom line? What do your employees need? From their
management team they need leaders with positive attitudes who see the
good and bad and know how to address both. They need engaged leaders
who know their business without being in their business. They need
leaders who clear paths towards success and goal achievement without
creating barriers. They need strong leaders who fairly and
consistently put forth the values, vision, and best practices of the
organization so that everyone can succeed.
What do you say?
* * * * *
Doug Dickerson is a syndicated columnist. He writes a weekly column
for this newspaper. To contact Doug Dickerson, email him at