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Archive Monthly Archives: April 2018

Hands making fist bump over desk

Is appreciation better than a pay rise?

​How much do we love to hear what a good job we’ve done?

Apparently, we love it more than we love a pay rise.  (Ok, that assumes we’ve already got enough to live on, and I know that unfortunately there are too many people who can’t say that. I don’t think that’s right, and we should do something about that. But that’s not the problem I’m working on today.)

A 2012 study at Berkeley university[1] found that while a pay rise briefly made us feel appreciated, a far better indication was the respect and admiration of our peers.  We do love a pay rise – let’s be honest, even if you’re not mainly motivated by money, a bit more is usually good.  However, the feel good factor soon wears off, and we get used to that extra income pretty quickly.  According to that study though, we never get used to feeling the respect and admiration of our peers.

What happens if we don’t get respect and admiration? A friend of mine used to work as a teaching assistant, working with children who had special needs, to help them integrate into mainstream education.   A worthwhile and rewarding job, you’d think.  And she did love the children, and enjoyed helping them with their schooling.  But the teachers in this particular school saw the job as low importance and she always felt that the head teacher didn’t value her contribution or that she was a useful member of the team.  Unsurprisingly, she eventually left.

Failure, burnout, stress, no motivation – these are all symptoms when you don’t feel appreciated at work.  They are common in jobs like call centre work, retail, low paid work.  And of course results in lots of stress and high turnover of staff.

So let me turn this around – if you’re a manager, how often do you show your appreciation for your team?  Do they feel respected and valued?  How many of your team have the respect and admiration of the rest of the team?

You might think you’re too busy to show appreciation.  But as a manager of staff, that’s a key element of your job.  And yes, I understand you need that too.  Which brings us to workplace culture.  If you have a culture of ‘too busy’, stressful, no time, don’t care about people, then you get what you deserve – people who are too busy to do a good job, people who are too stressed to give their best, people who will leave as soon as something that looks better comes along.

Call centres

​Even call centres can have a culture of looking after their staff. The Admiral Group is regularly named as one of the best places to work.  In his account of working part time at their Cardiff call centre, James Bloodworth says


‘…even dull jobs could be made bearable for the workforce without any real cost to employers.  Working in the retentions department of a car insurance firm was as dull as I had expected it to be.  Yet the company did make a serious effort to ensure that it was not the sort of workplace that, sat at home watching Coronation Street in the evening, you dreaded returning to the next day.  It was tolerable, and most of the staff I spoke to seemed if not to enjoy it then at least not to find it too oppressive, even if I thought they should be paid more.’​


Hired. Six months undercover in low-wage Britain, James Bloodworth (2018) Atlantic Books, London p1 185-6​​​


The more valued we feel, the better we work.  Those who regularly receive praise and thanks for a job well done are more likely to go the extra mile when it’s needed.

If you want to know how to change the culture in your workplace to one that fosters a culture of worth and appreciation, give me a call and we’ll talk about how Silvern Training can help.

Speak to Lindsay on 07976 816704

[1] Anderson, C et al ‘The Local-Ladder Effect: Social Status and Subjective Well-Being’, Psychological Science 23 (2012): 764-71.  Quoted in Friedman, R 2014 The Best Place to Work Penguin Group New York

Man and woman talking

Getting your message across

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” — Ernest Hemingway

 “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw

A quick Google search on what do employees complain about shows that communication crops up in most top 10s.  An Inc article on how to make sure your employees never complain about you as a boss puts clearly communicating performance expectations at number 1. Another top 10 puts communication problems above not paid enough, job insecurity and a bad boss. A You Gov poll said that 94% of managers believe they are good listeners; only 65% of their staff agreed.

I remember when I worked at a largish charity a few years ago, we did a quality audit, using the EFQM model, and one of the key areas where we fell short was on communication.  My particular grievance was that I felt left out of too many conversations, I didn’t know everything that was going on.  While this might well be a personality fault – perhaps I’m too nosey – but I felt that as a fundraiser, I needed to have a good understanding of what was going on across the organisation. I hated finding out that someone else was doing a funding bid and I didn’t know it was going on, or needed funding urgently for a project, but then I couldn’t get the information I needed to apply for appropriate funding.

 

Let’s meet

At the same time, we had lots of meetings.  I attended lots of meetings, even without the ones I complained about not being involved in. And then I hated sitting there listening to people talking at length about the problems they were having, or some meeting they’d had and had to give us a blow by blow account of who said what to whom.  Just give me the headlines, dammit!

Of course, with hindsight, I can see that the organisation had good intent, but just needed to get smarter about how it shared information.  Peter Drucker, in his seminal book Managing Oneself, describes people as readers or listeners.  Some people like to read for information, others like to be told it, to get an oral report.  I realise now that, whilst I love to talk, and developing my skills as a listener, I get too bored if I have to listen too long to something, especially if I’m not involved.  Conversation – I love a good conversation, but meetings aren’t about conversation. Give me a written report that contains the information I need, please.  Meetings should have a specific agenda, good discipline about sticking to it, but most of all be necessary to meet a defined purpose.  There are other, more effective, ways to share information

 

Tyranny of the inbox

Another complaint often heard about communication at work is too many emails.  Some organisations have a tendency to send long emails, cc ing in anyone they think needs to be kept informed.  One charity worker I spoke to said the bane of her life was long emails, where she had to spend ages reading through to check if there was anything she needed to know or needed to do, buried somewhere in the missive.  Often there wasn’t.  But sometimes there was, so she still had to read them.  And another manager complained that people sent him an email to ask a question, rather than get up, walk to another desk, ask him the question, sort it out straight away.  On the other hand, if you have a culture of always open, you’ll be constantly interrupted, so this can have its drawbacks too.

 

Are you listening?

One of the most crucial, and underrated, communication skills is listening.  94% of managers believe they are good listeners.  But only 65% of staff say their managers are good listeners.  So it sounds as though a significant proportion of managers are deluding themselves. The You Gov poll asked what is the biggest mistake leaders make when working with others?  41% said inappropriate communication or poor listening.  When asked to choose the top five from a list of potential missteps by leaders, 81% chose failing to listen or involve others.[1]

Why is it important?  If we go back to my experience of feeling left out, as well as paradoxically hating to waste time in meetings, this taps into some fundamental feelings about work.  My sense of belonging, how engaged was I with the purpose of the organisation and my role in it, was I clear on what was expected of me? Was my contribution valued?  With hindsight, I accept that it was, this organisation had so much good intent, but there were some things it could have done better.  As well as communication, several staff complained that they didn’t feel appreciated.  If they had communicated this better, motivation and morale would have been way higher.

 

How can you get this right?

It’s not easy, but the rewards are worth it.  Sometimes, your staff won’t know what they need, like me simultaneously complaining about not being involved in meetings, and going to meetings that are a waste of time.  Back then, if someone had taken the time to work out what my actual complaint was, and consider my preferred style of communication, the problem could have been resolved.  However, throw in that other team members will have differing needs, and you see how complex this can get.

Here are five techniques that work, one of them, or a combination, may be right for you.

  1. Weekly scrum. Everybody in the team has to attend a stand up meeting and has five minutes to report what they are working on that week, what might get in the way, what help they need. At the same time every week.
  2. Daily scrum. As above, but at the same time every day. Two minutes instead of five.
  3. Using online collaboration tools like Slack, Trello, to keep everyone up to speed on progress.
  4. Open door policy, combined with focus times, where interruptions, unless of an emergency, are not allowed.
  5. Send all your managers on a course to improve their listening skills!

Whether you can improve your communication with a simple fix will depend on what your workplace culture is like at present.  If you have generally good leaders and managers who are willing to work on their skills, then a few changes can make all the difference.  However, if there are wider problems and the other Pam Cast principles are not an integral part of your culture, then the techniques above will be like putting a sticking plaster over a wound that needs stitches.  If you’re afraid this is you, take the questionnaire now and see what your strengths and weaknesses are.

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[1] Murray, K 2017 People with purpose, Kogan Page, London p 186