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Maritza Diaz

Want Improved Employee Morale? Treat Them Like Clients

By: Maritza Diaz | September 9, 2013 | 
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Want Improved Employee Morale? Treat Them Like ClientsBy Maritza Diaz

A recent trip to the fitness center caught me by surprise.

My favorite instructor was no longer there.

I was stunned.

She was an amazing teacher who was well admired.

Her best attribute? She treated everyone the same and with grace.

She had an amazing ability to connect and quality customer service came easy to her.

It made me wonder if her employer treated her with equal care, and what the overall employee morale was like at the fitness center.

Employee Morale

In the communications world, clients are golden. We treat them and their business/brand with the utmost respect in hopes of a long-lasting relationship. We shield them, advise them, jump through hoops for them, and champion their brand with everything we have.

Should we be treating employees similarly? Should we not shield, advise, and champion those who report to us?

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do we do all we can to keep our team happy?
  • Do we provide them with the resources that allow them to be as productive as they would like to be?
  • Do we make the effort to give them responsibilities that allow their strengths to shine through?

A recent article by Jack Marshall shows just how agencies are losing employees left and right due to poor working environments.  I don’t have all the answers.  Heck, we’ve all experienced tight budgets and limited staff.

I couldn’t help but think of servant leadership. Simply put, servant leadership is placing the needs of others first, and helping others develop and perform at their best. In Peter Shankman’s book, “Nice Companies Finish First,” he explains the cutthroat way of managing teams is a thing of the past—or we hope it to be.

Leading by example works. Perhaps some leaders forget what it’s like to be a line employee. And perhaps employees do not recognize the stressful demands leadership places on one’s shoulders. However, when both sides come to a meeting point, productivity and engagement can increase.

Friend or Foe

I once worked with a PR agency where my manager instructed me, under no circumstance, was I to enter the elevator with a talent and his publicist. It’s one of those The Devil Wears Prada moments, of which I have many. On numerous occasions this manager was frigid, controlling, and not collaborative.

Of course, this manager was feared of by most employees and, consequently, didn’t last long with the company. The flip side is witnessing the head of an organization lend a hand to set up for a board meeting. He took the time to place company materials on the desk, brew coffee and prep the audio-visual presentation.

Scenario 1: Aloof, stand-offish, energy drainer 

Scenario 2Amiable, approachable, relationship builder

Which side promotes camaraderie?  Which scenario describes you?

As communicators, we surely want to exchange information in a genuine manner. Genuine interaction between management and staff is crucial.  Show respect and appreciation to bring out the best in people. This results in a domino effect. What you give, you receive.

What’s the benefit? Employee Morale. Morale. Morale.

So think about it: How can you help your employees succeed?

About Maritza Diaz


Spanish spoken, goal-driven, and strategic public relations professional with leading campaigns at corporate and agency-type environments. Always looking to inspire and be inspired. Follow her @littlegiantprod

22 comments
RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

Love this! My first sales manager taught me that I have external customers and internal customers, and to spend just as much time supporting, assisting, and "selling" to my internal as external. I've not forgotten that. I am nothing without the support of my team. 

rdopping
rdopping

Hi Maritza. This post resonates with me in a big way. You see, I recently lost 2 of my team. I have about 30 people reporting directly to me through a few levels so it's a small team. We are a tight unit. We serve a major Canadian bank through a management company. The work is fast paced and challenging.This makes for a very dynamic environment which, as a leadership professional, is an amazing place to be. We are inclusive and share responsibility to ensure our client gets exceptional service. My role is simply to support my team through guidance and my expertise in the field.I agree that a leader needs to be part of the team with a role to fill. A role that everyone else can rely on. That's critical. At least to me. The losses that hit us recently were because of the repetitive nature of our work. The two that left said they loved working in the environment, the team and the learning opportunities kept them engaged. Why leave? New challenges.We prepare everyone on our team to spread their wings. It's an eventuality that moat will move on over time. Even I am continuously learning and looking for other opportunity within the firm. I am sad we lost two of our family but I am also very happy for them as they push on to explore new avenues in their careers.Thanks for writing your story. Great attitudes rub off on people the same as any other. Cheers.

JenC1
JenC1

A great reminder.  A leader needs to be willing to get dirty with the rest of the crew.  Making sure that everyone has what they need to effectively fulfill their responsibilities and that they feel listened to and appreciated.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Great post @aritza  

An accounting professor in college told us to ask if employees reside in the asset or the liability side of a balance sheet. For 90% of companies employees are a cost of business vs an investment to make more money. and sadly with 80% of the US making about 30k in crappy jobs with no benefits we need a wholesale shift in corporate philosophy starting with pay improvements. Businesses forget it if we make more we can pay higher prices. Instead of the Walmart race to the bottom we should be on a Chanel race to the top.

Word Ninja
Word Ninja

Great points! ...with the "Golden Rule" at the heart of it. Servant leadership can be a wonderful thing. 

But I have also seen it have the opposite effect; the servant part becomes separated from the leadership part, and the employee is expected to serve and to sacrifice for the good of the organization and is left feeling used up.

I agree with @TaraGeissinger that when done well, this kind of leadership can create more of a family than just a workplace. And in a healthy family we look to the good of each family member. 

Enjoyed the post!

TaraGeissinger
TaraGeissinger

I couldn't agree more. Employees and contractors need to feel as if they are part of the team. We are a family. Our successes are celebrated. Tough times are weathered together. My business partner, Christine, and I were actually just talking about this yesterday because a collaborator of ours lost another employee. It's a HUGE blow to lose a key part of your team. Our immediate reaction was to look internally at *our* team -- are they happy? Are they rewarded? 

I think one of the biggest mistakes employers make is being too constrictive. The first agency I worked for gave me a lot of flexibility. As long as I got my work done and met deadlines, I was free to come and go. They recognized that the PR and marketing industry meant a lot of working evenings and events on the weekends. If I actually finished my to-do list by 3pm on a Tuesday....I could head home. 

On the other hand, my second agency was the complete opposite. If you wanted to pop out early on a Friday you had to officially take a half-day vacation time. It didn't matter if you'd put in 50 hours that week or worked a Saturday event. If you were leaving at 3pm, you lost vacation time. It was demoralizing. 

Hire AMAZING talent and then have enough trust in them to allow them to be amazing!

corinamanea
corinamanea

Hi Maritza, a very good post. This is a current issue on the Spanish market. Due to the crisis, employers in small companies understand that leading through fear is what they should do. For some reason they think that under the threat of being fired, people will do what they´re asked. Unfortunately, these employers do not understand how productive are happy employees and how unproductive is leading through fear. So, no, at least in Spain is not an easy concept. I really don´t understand why is so difficult for them to see the benefits of leading by example. In hard times companies (large or small) need loialty from employees! That is how you built/gain loialty from your clients.  

dbvickery
dbvickery

Loved this post, and I'm a huge fan of servant leadership. Morale stays high in the good times...and can perhaps tread water a bit in the bad times if you remain honest and forthcoming.

If all you offer employees is a competitive salary and benefits, then you effectively become a commodity to the employees. They will always chase the highest bidder because you've done nothing else to build loyalty. And without good employees...you can't support good clients.

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

@rdopping Well put Ralph! A true leader is happy for his crew, even when they move on. I'm sure it was sad, but I can tell you wish them well. 

littlegiantprod
littlegiantprod

@TaraGeissinger And the rewards can be small.  I have worked with many yellers and intimidators. However, one supervisor always stands out.  My boss held weekly business meetings. This would give the team a chance to catch up on what needs to be done.  However, before every meeting, he encouraged all to talk about our weekends, families etc.  He set the tone to make us feel comfortable.  He would also treat us to a fancy lunch every month. We all appreciated it!  Most of all, he was positive. Never 'negative Nellie'.  Always looking on the bright side and fully embracing everyone's hard work. Thanks!

littlegiantprod
littlegiantprod

@@corinamanea Culture has a lot to do with the atmosphere.  As a Latina, I have worked with various personalities and have experienced threatening situations.  They probably thought, "This will motivate her." On the contrary.  I feel encouraging, motivating, inspiring others to do better is key.  Perhaps you can be that one example.  And pretty soon everyone will follow.  Es muy posible. Buena suerte.

littlegiantprod
littlegiantprod

@dbvickery Thanks for the comment.  Seems like an easy concept right?  Now in a challenging job market, employees look for the right culture and not just the right job.

corinamanea
corinamanea

@littlegiantprod I understand culture has a lot to do with it. But I also think we live in a global world, so we have adapt and take the good from every culture and always keep improving ourselves (as individuals and companies). Thank you Maritza, I´ll do my very best :).