Keeping Staff Happy: Is this Your job?

I Do Like Mondays?

I Do Like Mondays?

A travel survey conducted by tour operator Thomas Cook and the ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agents), listed a number of outrageous complaints vacationers had made to their travel agents.  Here’s a sample…

  • “I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts.”
  • “It’s lazy of the local shopkeepers to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during ‘siesta’ time – this should be banned.”
  • “On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don’t like spicy food at all.”
  • “We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our swimming costumes and towels.”
  • “We bought ‘Ray-Ban’ sunglasses for five Euros from a street trader, only to find out later that they were fake.”
  • “No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled.”

On one level, complaints like this are laughable. But, closer to home, managers often deal with silly requests from staff. So, how do you make the call that a request for support is legitimate and you are going to do something about it? Equally important, how do you determine if expectations for support are B/S and you are going to ignore this?

60th Birthday: I have a friend, Martin Sheehan (not the actor) who recently celebrated his 60th. Prior to the big day, his wife Mary asked him what he wanted to mark the occasion. When he told her, she replied: “What sort of a flashlight fetish have you got? You must have bought 100 of those stupid things since we got married and none of them work”.

As Martin grew up in Ballyfermot, I can fully subscribe to his need to have a working ‘flashlamp’ – in case of an electrical emergency.  At work sometimes requests for things seem equally bizarre. The trick (if we can call it a trick) is to understand the request from the perspective of the person making it.

Professor McCarthy: In his seminal book ‘The Decade of Upheaval’, the late Professor Charles McCarthy wrote that the central problem in industrial relations was not that executives were faceless, but that the people in charge considered you (the workers) as being faceless. So, while it may not be a central part of the executive role to keep staff happy (everyone owns their own happiness), it is part of the executive role to understand the perspective of staff. Demonstrating this understanding, even if you cannot or decide not to do anything about the issues raised, has the effect of letting people know they have been heard. This simple practice of ‘being heard’ is itself, therapeutic and can help to resolve an issue.

Coast Guard: Admiral Thad Allen is the guy who coordinated the response to the US Gulf Coast oil disaster in 2007. He said that the central role for leaders is to: “make yourself continually available and make communication continuous”. By the nature of the work they do, the Coast Guard are responding to events that have an uncertain ending and unknown timing. During the Gulf Crisis, he modelled an approach where the leader makes himself highly accessible. His second piece of advice was not to avoid details or technical elements that staff bring forward. His belief: It’s important for a leader to understand the detailed, technical situation which staff face, captured in the saying “Don’t dumb down the complexity”.

Next Time: The next time a member of staff says to you: “I don’t feel that I am being developed in this job” or “I’m not really enjoying this work” you have two options. You can see this as an interruption to your busy day. Alternatively, you can see it as an opportunity to understand the world from the perspective of staff and use the opportunity to communicate your own philosophy.

Don’t  start from the automatic assumption that it’s your job to keep staff happy. But, neither is it your job to ignore issues which staff raise. The role for executives is to search for the sweet spot which lies somewhere between these extremes.


Comment on ‘Magnificant 7 for Meetings’ – last week’s blog: Apolgies for some reason the ‘7th Idea’ disappeared. This was fixed mid week. If you are bursting to know what it was – have another look at the blog.  More importantly, Michael Brown sent on the following (very clever) idea:

I’ve got a good exercise to try with a group that meets regularly and a few people seem to dominate the discussion.

Give everyone 10 paper clips and a paper coffee cup or similar. Every time they say ANYTHING they have to put a clip in the cup. When they are out of clips they’re out of the discussion.

Appoint someone as the clip policeman to make sure all the clips go in the cup when they should.

You’ll find this encourages people to think before they talk, and slows the thing right down. It’s now more throughtful, and of course, more democratic, and the quieter folks get a word in edgeways at last.

A bit of fun but a serious point and a powerful experience potentially.

PS Lighter Note: Always Send Flowers (courtesy of Anthony Moyles).

A new business was opening and one of the owner’s friends wanted to send flowers for the occasion. When it arrived at the site the owner read the card which said “Rest in Peace”. The owner was angry and called the florist to complain. After he had informed the florist of the obvious mistake and how angry he was, the florist said:

“Sir, I’m really sorry for the mistake, but rather than getting angry you should imagine this: somewhere there is a funeral taking place today, and they have flowers with a note saying, “Congratulations on your new location!”

Having trouble selecting a Female Partner? This YouTube link is courtesy of Deirdre Giblin who certainly has a robust sense of humour. Blame Deirdre if your sensitivities are offended (I thought it was very funny)

Check our website or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.


About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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