HR Resources Database

HR Resources Database June 2013

Are You Treating Employees Like They Don’t Matter? Six Things You Do (or Don’t Do) That Make Them Feel Unloved

Christine Comaford

According to a new book by Christine Comaford, “SmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together,” even the most well meaning among us may inadvertently do and say things to our employees that make them unappreciated.

When leaders say or do something that makes employees feel insignificant (and/or frightened or isolated; the three tend to work together), they revert to the fight/flight/freeze part of the brain—falling into what Comaford calls the “Critter State.” Once in this state, all innovation and collaboration skills fall by the wayside, and every decision boils down to a single question: What will keep me safe right now?

So what might you be doing that makes employees feel they don’t matter? Comaford reveals six of the top offenders:

You don’t respond to their emails. Sure, you’re busy, and sure, your employees know that—but the Critter State doesn’t spring from the rational part of the brain. Instead of thinking, Oh, the boss will get back to me when she has a moment, they think, She doesn’t like my idea. She doesn’t like me. I feel rejected. I don’t matter.

• You don’t give them feedback—positive or negative. When people matter to us, we want them to know they’ve done a good job. If they haven’t done a good job, we want them to know that too, so they can improve. To the employee’s Critter Brain, silence means we don’t care enough to let them know either way.

• You acknowledge people ONLY when they make mistakes. This makes them feel like a faulty cog that must be repaired to keep the company machine running smoothly. To let them know they matter, make a positive personal connection with employees as often as possible. Be specific about what you like and let them know their unique contribution makes a real difference to the company.

• You don’t celebrate victories. No, just getting paid isn’t reward enough for doing a great job. (Again, a paycheque can feel like oil for the cog—necessary, but not meaningful.) When your team has an especially significant win, make a point to order in a special lunch and celebrate the team company-wide.

• You inadvertently show favouritism. In many companies, there are certain team members who are perceived as “above the law” or in the “in crowd.” These people tend not to be held accountable for their lack of performance, and they often get the lion’s share of raises, promotions, or perks, even if they don’t deserve them. And yes, says Comaford, other employees notice.

• You burn them out. Do your employees slog away like slaves, working looong hours and completing one high-stress task after another, day after day after day? Not only will they feel that you don’t care about their well-being, they’ll burn out. Yes, from time to time we all have to exert extra effort … but no one can sustain such a pace forever.

About the Author(s)

Christine Comaford is a global thought leader who helps mid-sized and Fortune 1000 companies navigate growth and change, an expert in human behaviour and applied neuroscience, and the bestselling author of Rules for Renegades. Her latest book, New York Times best seller “SmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together,” was released in June 2013.

To learn more, visit www.christinecomaford.com

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