Business schools take many shapes and forms through colleges across the U.S. Some tout exemplary alumni while others advertise on the back of phone books. Yes, phone books still exist, though their population is on the decline.
Most business schools, however, sit quietly pushing out capable professionals into the world to start, manage, or run a business. Each university teaches their students slightly different skill sets, but most traditional management classes send the same messages across:
Employees are employees, not friends. If your employees seem too giddy or joyful, they are probably not getting work done. Work is work, no one said it was going to be fun. Negative reinforcement works fine, plus you save money on rewards. Get as much out of your employees as you possibly can. Employees are liabilities, not assets.
Some of these may be an exaggeration, but most are not so far from what professors are teaching their business, management, and hospitality students. It sounds strange but think about it. How many of your past jobs had terrible bosses that boasted a business degree, but treated you and your coworkers like sh*t? I am guessing there are a few hands raised.
Some of them were probably just terrible people and a different job or degree would not have changed that, but others learned to manage that way. The “employees are liabilities” mindset has prevailed for many years in managerial schools and it has created some nasty managers in the process.
However, going through hospitality business school myself, I am noticing this no longer to be the case. None of my professors have projected negativity towards employees. In fact, I just finished a class about the flaws of tradition business course teachings, especially concerning leadership.
Lead from the Heart by Mark Crowley and Leadership and Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute were two books we read for this class. Both were excellent and I highly recommend them, even if you don’t have an interest in business or management.
Essentially, what each book covers and what we frequently discussed in that class, was the importance of treating and leading people as people. No one wants to nor expects to be treated with disregard at work. We all want earned respect and recognition in our careers, something that hasn’t always been the standard in the workplace.
We all want earned respect and recognition in our careers, something that hasn’t always been the standard in the workplace.
More and more, people are giving job satisfaction higher significance in their life and slowly business professionals are realizing this. Business schools are changing their thoughts processes and the end results are programs like the one I am in. These are programs that teach managers to lead people as people, as individuals, and as humans with complex needs.
No, we are not being taught to “people please” nor are we instructed to bow down to every want and demand of each employee. That is not a sustainable mindset when running a business. But the opposite is equally unsustainable. Why would you treat the people you work with every day, who make possible the service or product you provide, any different than you would treat your friends or family?
Please don’t start your workday off kissing your employees. That is not at all what I mean. You will find yourself in a world of “complications” if you start doing that. Treating your employees like your family doesn’t entail intimates, rather it means simple courtesy, kindness, and consideration.
If your wife/husband asks you to do the dishes before s/he comes home, would you gripe and complain, telling them there isn’t nearly enough time to complete such a laborious task? What about the other way around? Would you ask your wife/husband who is already cleaning the house, taking care of the kids, and doing the laundry to also finish the dishes by the time you got home? What if they aren’t finished? Would you scold them and ask why they couldn’t finish such a simple task when anyone else would easily be able to get something like that done in 20 minutes, let alone be given all day?
Hopefully, you wouldn’t. You would understand that they already have a lot on their plate and expecting them to complete a heavier workload in the same amount of time is unrealistic. Perhaps you would even take them aside casually and ask them how they are doing or offer to take on some of the work yourself (or to someone else who is willing). It’s important you understand their current situation and well being. Don’t pry, but do build a relationship so they feel comfortable letting you know when their lives are overwhelming. And, if they do feel uncomfortable about sharing any personal information, what does that say about the culture you’ve created?
Again, you don’t have to be creepy about knowing their personal lives but having a general idea of how your people are doing will provide you with valuable insight.
Having a general idea of how your people are doing will provide you with valuable insight.
Take your totally real employee, Rich, for example. Rich from marketing is usually a great employee, but he missed a deadline last week! If you made an effort to build a relationship with Rich, you might know he recently went through a hard time. You would then obviously understand why he missed that deadline and perhaps even offer him time off. You do this, knowing sympathy and understanding will strengthen your professional relationship with Rich. It may even spark his desire for greater productivity and quality of work.
Rich, of course, isn’t real but there are thousands and millions of people just like Rich. Unfortunately, I can’t say they all have the same type of boss Rich has. My hope is that we can all work for bosses that understand their employees are complex individuals with multifaceted lives.
This is the direction that management courses (hopefully) continue to take in colleges and universities. We cannot and should not have to tolerate the cold indifference that has prevailed for so many years. Numbers and figures are important, but the employees involved are more so.
Hospitality training teaches us to take care of the customer, that they are always right even when they aren’t. What managers must remember is that their employees are as much a customer as the person standing at the front counter.
J.W. Marriott, the founder of the Marriott hotel giant, always said, “Take care of your associates and they’ll take care of your customers.”
It’s as simple as that.
Author: B. Delamater