Exponential Voice of Discontent

The concept of employee engagement is going to become increasingly important in the very near future. Employees who have options will not stick around if you haven’t earned their trust, respect, and loyalty.

Consider the exponential power of the loud voice from a disgruntled employee. Years ago, a company I supported opened in a new market. Potential employees flocked to the job fair for the opportunity to work for a company with such a great reputation. In addition to that, we were the only game in town.

After six months of operations, the attrition in that office reached over thirty percent. Why? Our pay and benefits were better than any other company within 60 miles. Our office was brand new. We offered a certified white-collar, professional environment. We had paid vacation, sick days, paid holidays. We had air conditioning in the summer, heat in the winter. We had on-the-job training. Why did people leave? Because, as one employee put it, “The managers were terrible human beings.” Marcus Buckingham and Gallup were right: people don’t leave companies, they leave bosses. The best benefits cannot compensate for the most boorish boss.

In this particular office, a disgruntled employee took part in an interview at a local talk-radio station. Her message was simple: “Friends don’t let friends work for _____.” Today, substitute talk-radio for Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc.

Oh, one more thing. Many of the people who responded to my “I knew it was time to leave when…” question included the company name. I left that out. But disgruntled employees don’t leave that out when they are talking to friends at a backyard barbecue or telling family members why no one should do business with (insert company name here).

Consider yourself lucky. If you have been Ebenezer Scrooge, you still have time to change while the economy starts to crawl back to life. Nothing yet says your fate is etched in stone by exiting employees.

Instead of asking your employees the question that I asked them, why don’t you try to ask your superstars this question:

What would it take to make you want to stay in this job for the next couple of years?

Here’s how a final person responded to my question. This person has it right:

[Y]our values must align, management must be open and honest [and] mutual respect is a must for a workplace to be its most productive and for employees to deliver to their full potential. Audrey G.

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