8 Reasons Your Employees Don't Care

Last Updated Sep 6, 2011 12:30 PM EDT

Pay only goes so far. Higher salaries are like the bigger house syndrome: Move into a bigger house and initially it feels roomier, but after awhile larger becomes the new normal.

Employees don't automatically perform at higher levels if wages are higher because commitment, dedication, and motivation are not based on pay. No matter how high the salary, if you treat employees poorly they won't care -- about their jobs or your business.

Here are eight reasons employees don't care:
  1. No freedom. Best practices are definitely important, but not every task deserves a best practice or micro-managed approach. Autonomy breeds engagement and satisfaction. Autonomy also breeds innovation. Even manufacturing and heavily process-oriented positions have room for different approaches or paths. Decide which process battles are worth fighting; otherwise, let employees have some amount of freedom to work they way they work best.
  2. No targets. Goals are fun. (I've never met anyone who wasn't at least a little bit competitive.) Targets create a sense of purpose and add meaning to even the most repetitive tasks. Without a goal to shoot for, work is just work.
  3. No sense of mission. We all like to feel a part of something bigger. Striving to be worthy of words like "best" or "largest" or "fastest" or "highest quality" provides a sense of purpose. Let employees know what you want the business to achieve; how can they care about your dreams if they don't know your dreams?
  4. No clear expectations. While every job should include decision-making latitude, every job also has basic expectations regarding the way certain situations should be handled. Criticize an employee for providing a refund today even though last week refunds were standard procedure and you've lost the employee. (How can I do a good job when I don't know what doing a good job means?) When standards change, always communicate those changes first -- then stick with them. And when you don't, explain why this particular situation is different.
  5. No input. Everyone wants to be smart. How do I show I'm smart? By offering suggestions and ideas. (Otherwise no matter how hard I work I just feel like a robot.) Deny me the opportunity to make suggestions, or shoot my suggestions down without consideration, and I'm just a robot -- and robots don't care. Make it easy for employees to present ideas and when an idea doesn't have merit take the time to explain why. You can't implement every idea, but you can make employees feel good every time they make a suggestion.
  6. No connection. The company provides the paycheck, but employees work for people. A kind word, a short discussion about family, a brief check-in to see if they need anything... person-to-person moments are much more important than meetings or formal evaluations. Employees want to be seen as people, not numbers. Numbers don't care. People care -- especially when you care about them first.
  7. No consistency. Most employees can deal with a boss who is demanding and quick to criticize... as long as she treats every employee the same way. (Think of it as the Vince Lombardi effect.) While it's okay -- in fact necessary -- to treat employees differently, all employees must be treated fairly. Similar achievements should result in similar praise and rewards. Similar offenses should result in similar disciplinary actions. The key to maintaining consistency is to communicate; the more employees understand why a decision was made, the less likely they are to assume favoritism or unfair treatment.
  8. No future. Every job should have the potential to lead to something better, either within or outside the company. I worked my way through college at a manufacturing plant. I had no future with the company because everyone understood I would only stay until I graduated. One day my boss said, "Hey, let me show you how we set up the job scheduling board." I looked at him oddly; why show me instead of someone else? In response he said, "Some day, somewhere, you'll be in charge of production. Might as well start learning now." Take the time to develop employees for jobs they hope to fill -- even if those positions are outside your company. They will care about your business because they know you care about them.
Related: Photo courtesy flickr user greeblie, CC 2.0
  • Jeff Haden On Twitter»

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    Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business from managing a 250-employee book manufacturing plant. Everything else he picked up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest CEOs and leaders in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon's bestseller list. Follow him on Twitter at @Jeff_Haden.

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