Do you think employees are inherently lazy or do you think they inherently want to do good work? This can be debated almost as heatedly as “is man born inherently good or inherently evil?” We have all been to a place of business or restaurant where the man or woman behind the counter isn’t going to move faster, no matter what. You could put a gun to their head but they are still going to slowly get your order or your paperwork together. I actually walked into a place of business after hours and witnessed a man, part of the cleaning crew, vacuuming the floor while sitting in a roll around chair (with headphones on). I couldn’t help but grab his attention; I waved at him and asked him what music he was listening to. After he answered, I questioned him in a friendly way “if his feet hurt or something.” He said, and I quote, “I am a person who finds a way to do a job sitting down. I don’t know why people always want to stand up, takes too much energy!”
I have always been an employee that gave 110% to my job, no matter what, my entire life. Even if the pay was terrible, the work was long and hard, menial or boring, I can’t help but give my all. If I consider my entire life, I have had a variety of jobs, some good, several bad, and a lot of stories to tell about all of them. As an entrepreneur, I think that my employee days are over. I really don’t know that I could go back to being a happy worker bee after years of calling the shots, making my own decisions, and taking responsibility for major decisions.
I like people that can think for themselves. I’m not a micro-manager and never will be. I’m not a task master and don’t rule with an iron fist. Deciding on employees in today’s world is interesting, to say the least. Interviews are always a challenge because I am always trying to figure out what a person is “really like” beyond how they present themselves to be. In a smaller office, it is important that everyone fits in with the dynamic. I want people that can grasp what is going on and take it in their own direction; I don’t care for constantly dreaming of things for employees to do. The best employee is a self-motivated person someone a lot like, well, ME! I don’t want a lot of “Yes” people around; I want to surround myself with people that know more than I do, in their various specializations.
Motivation is something I have been thinking a lot about, and it seems as if people either “have it” or they don’t, you can’t motivate someone that doesn’t want to be there. I remember the days of working for a large corporation where the motivation techniques were sad and laughable. We could get emails stating that, if we met our goals, we would get a Pizza Party! Another big tool used by upper management was casual days; if we completed some task or another, we could win up to a full week of casual days. I have to tell you, it didn’t exactly make me work all that much harder. Money is always an enormous motivator, but, again, for a small business, that is not always the right option. When money is on the line, people tend to cut corners or find a way to beat the system, rather than actually working harder.
What I want to do is cultivate a sense of team and a sense of loyalty, as well as a sense of belonging. I don’t think you can “bribe” people into working harder. I think that most people inherently want to work hard, they want to do good work. Although everyone wants to be recognized for their work, the work ethic has to come from the inside. If I create a positive work environment, will my employees naturally be motivated?
Once upon a time, during summer vacations while at college, I worked for a temp agency that sent me to a factory. The factory had a union that was clashing with the company, the factor owners had temporary workers for a reason, because they refused to hire any more employees that would become union. I don’t want to categorize all union workers but the people in this particular place were highly paid but very slow. As a temp worker, they told you when to slow down and how much to produce on your line. If someone got upset, they would “break” something and the whole factory would stop, just like that, and everyone knew when it would happen. You would hear at lunch time that everyone would be leaving early that day!!
In that situation the workers were united, but in a negative way. What happened a year later? The plant shut down and moved to India, a sad thing, but, to be honest, what I saw from the inside in just a few weeks time, was a lot of people working together to work slower and produce less. There was negativity everywhere, it was a toxic environment, and I don’t think that is what the union was designed for.
I attended an HR workshop last week that touched partly on this exact topic, and they gave the roomful of employers these guidelines to follow:
Some people have crossed the threshold into the realm of “unemployable.” The man on the roll around chair is likely to be unemployable when he inevitably loses the cleaning job he has. I may be unemployable because I am used to being the chief, not the Indian. I’d like to think I could adapt but, to be honest, I hope I don’t have to anytime soon. Freelance translators, after some time in this industry, would likely have a difficult time in certain situations. After several years or even decades of being your own boss, it is hard to have to answer to someone other than yourself.
So what do you think? Do people inherently want to do a good job, or do they only want to get paid the most they can while doing as little as possible? How can you motivate the unmotivated?