Let Me In!

Let me in!

My neighbor has a dachshund-beagle mix with a distinctive bark. He’s a happy dog, and he tends to make a lot of noise when he’s in the company of someone he enjoys. When his momma/owner plays with him, he releases a flurry of high-pitched yaps. But there’s another time when he makes noise, a time when he’s not happy. He’s never louder than when he feels left out.

At work, there are two ways to make your employees bark the loudest. First, you can reinforce them by letting them know how much you appreciate them and the work they do. Their bark is a happy one, one of focus and determination to give you a repeat performance for whatever it is that you acknowledged. This is a sweet sound, one that needs to be lifted up in every organization. These happy individuals announce to the world that they mean something at work, that they are special.

Another way to make  employees bark is to exclude them, keeping them out of the loop, making them perpetual outsiders. In a study done in the University of Florida several years ago, employees across multiple companies were asked to list the management behaviors that were most rewarding and reinforcing at work. Of course you would expect to see things like “give me more money” and “provide comfortable working conditions.” Those were in the top ten. Seriously, who would say “I would like to be paid less; and can you turn this place into a sweatshop?” But surprisingly, the number one answer was this:

Treat me like an insider.

The simple act of making someone feel included rated higher for most employees than an employer who opens his wallet or replaces an uncomfortable chair. And it’s free.

Wouldn’t it feel great to have a boss who would stop at your desk after an important meeting to tell you what he learned? Or maybe one who says, “We think a lot alike. I could really use your help on this new project so you can speak for me in my absence.” Or it might be something as easy as a boss who is open and honest in sharing his opinion with you about the new direction the company is taking.

Happy barks, barks of joy, tell you that you’ve unleashed discretionary efforts. These folks feel good, they’re happy to be there, and they bring their A-game to work each day. The other barks, the ones from those cut off from the pack, may never reach your ears. But that doesn’t mean they remain silent. Those employees tell their friends, families, and co-workers that they work for a paycheck instead of a manager or an organization that values their contributions.

What can you do to recognize great performance this week?

And how can you make each team member an insider?

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