It is OK to appreciate employees. For real.

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Check out this excerpt of a speech that Oprah gave at Harvard a few years back; I got it from here.

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Pretty powerful stuff, right? I thought so. Now I want you to think about stuff like “candidate experience.” Most of us have been in job searches, right? We know they can be painful and drag on and people don’t respond to you and you upload a resume then have to manually fill out data and so on and so forth. We talk a lot about candidate experience, sure, but are we really validating and appreciating potential future employees in the way we mostly handle this stuff? I would argue no.

Now think about managers

There are some great damn managers in the world, but by and large the managerial class is a train wreck and a tire fire at once (a car hit the train and a fire started, if you were curious about logistics). Don’t believe me? That’s OK. I’ve got some stats, baby. For example: 60 percent of managers say they “don’t have the time” to respect their employees. 68 percent of managers are not engaged in the career development of their employees. Only 34 percent of managers can name two strengths of their direct reports.

Fact: there are simply a lot of absentee managers in this world. In those situations, appreciation, validation, and respect? Probably not. Chances are the guy is a slave to a calendar, worships what he “ships” (product, code, process, etc.) and is in meetings/call probably 88 percent of the week. Very little real work. And if you think he’s easy to find at 1pm on Friday, well, I got a few bridges for sale that I might interest you in.

Why is this so hard for people?

For the life of me, I don’t really know. I think it’s because we draw hard lines around what “work” is supposed to be, as if it’s a somehow different thing from your “life,” even though it’s a huge chunk of “life” time for many people. We have lots of assumptions about relevance and control and value at work, and those assumptions become biases and color how we deal with people. Plus, the incentive system at most places is that if you “ship” well or handle process well, you can get more for yourself. Appreciating and validating people feels nice, but it won’t go into your bonus discussion. Make sense?

The “friend” line

A lot of bosses won’t respect, appreciate, and validate because they are scared of being perceived as a “friend” of their employees, which is supposedly some kind of death knell. I am of two minds on this. My last boss and I were friends; it ended poorly, partially because of that. He actually sent me a text on May 5th of this year saying he’d “always be there for me.” He fired me on May 24th. Do that math. It wasn’t pretty and it was a factor in me day drinking a portion of June. Well, that and my own personal issues.

So, no … I wouldn’t argue that your boss should be your friend. But I don’t think appreciating someone — “Good job, baby!” — is the same thing as “We are now friends.” I think appreciation is just a thing bosses should do and it doesn’t necessarily cross any friend lines.

Other funny thing: it’s not that hard to recognize and appreciate employees. Here’s the approach/plan.

So look, Mr. Boss Man … I know you’re busy. I know there are standups. I know you’ve got stuff to ship. I get all of it. I do. But please take some time to appreciate and respect those who work for you. Without them, would you look good or have a bigger salary? Nope. So pay it forward a little bit.

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Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money: http://thecontextofthings.com/hire-freelance-writer-ted-bauer/

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