January 15th is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s actual birthday but the 3rd Monday in January is the day we celebrate his life and legacy so what better time to talk about mutual respect at work.
America in 2016 is a very divisive place. For as many strides as we have taken as a Nation from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s we are still dealing with acceptance and tolerance issues.
I’m not simply talking about black and white issues either, I am talking about religiously, sexually and even appearances – we have become so judgmental and divisive. We are an angry nation. The rapper Drake has a song called “0 to 100” and it’s about how fast his temper goes from cool and relaxed to heated and violent! He’s not the only one.
I think that is a true gauge of our society right now. Look at the news, every story is about a robbery, murder, carjacking, shooting, stabbing or terrorist activity. This anger is also in our workplace, but I don’t have to tell you, you’re in HR, you see it all the time; employees bickering, squabbling and heavens forbids, fighting at work.
We are suspicious of each other, we are jealous of each other and we don’t care about one another. And this filters into our workplace. Things have gotten so bad that I truly believe you can’t have happy and engaged workers – they don’t really exist. You can have one or the other but not both. And in many workplaces they don’t have either.
We know the engagement/disengagement numbers; 30% and 70% roughly and respectfully. But you don’t need a stat do you? You live it.
Why are people so unhappy though? We tend think that if people had more money or more stuff they would be happier but that ain’t true. Look at Donald Trump, he’s a billionaire and has said he’s angry – but why? In fact, many of the guys running for President seem to be mad as hell – but for why, they are all millionaires with good jobs, beautiful families and did I say millions of dollars?
Here’s another example of how money doesn’t make people happy, remember Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, who paid all his employees $70K a year and some quit because they didn’t feel that they earned it and other quit because when felt all employees don’t do the same work so they should not make the same pay. And senior level and executive employees were uncomfortable with the fact employees on the frontlines were now making only $10K less than them.
If pay does not make employees happy, what does? Frankly, If I was the boss, I wouldn’t care. “Gasp” (and clutch the pearls) no, I would not be overly concerned about making employees happy. As the boss, I would offer my employees a highly competitive salary (because I do believe you need to pay people) then great healthcare benefits, then some fringe benefits, a few perks and try to have fun whenever we can and if that doesn’t make them happy (and it won’t) then I would not care.
The reason is because the employer can’t control employee happiness. There are way too many external forces at play – the spouse, the boyfriend, the girlfriend, the kids, the parents, the friends, the neighbors, social media, the bills – oh those bills. And with today’s climate, between all the shootings and robberies it is hard to stay positive these days.
We need to incorporate a healthy dose of mutual respect into our workplaces and we do that with leadership. We have think back to the leaders of yesteryear with their optimism for the future and overwhelming ability to lead with love and compassion. Today’s leaders are afraid to address situations – they don’t know how. We need to channel Dr. King and his legacy of tolerance and inclusion. We need to remember Gandhi, Mother Theresa and JFK. We have to teach our employees how to respect each other again, that begins with mandatory training sessions on ethics, tolerance, cultural diversity training and respect. It may be expensive but it’s worth it when you consider just how volatile society seems to be right now.
And although Americans are less religious than ever, we need to find something that reminds us to focus on kindness and what brings us joy versus going 0 to 100.