It was about five years ago when I was getting ready to take Finley, my son, to his first leg-rodding surgery in Omaha, Nebraska. He had just turned one and his legs were finally large enough to handle the procedure. I had put my PTO request in at work. It was a busy time in the office and I was nervous to go. I was sure I might be called upon while I was gone. In fact, I made myself available for such work emails and calls if necessary. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Be available at all times? My boss, the owner of our company, was not one to allow excuses. He was/is a tough character.
I had all kinds of things going through my mind. I was scared to take my baby to the operating table. Scared to leave my four year old behind, knowing for a fact she would cry at least one, if not every night we were gone. Work was still high up on the list of stressors, but it all blurred together.
So when my boss called me into his office the day before I left for Omaha, I was not at all sure what to expect. I rounded the corner and saw the face of every person who worked for our company and was in the office that day. Oh my, is it someone’s birthday? Crap, I’ve really lost track of things, I thought.
Then something special happened. My tough-as-nails boss handed me a Visa gift card and said he wanted me to get a few meals on the company while we were gone, then proceeded to threaten lives if anyone tried to talk work with me during my leave. My heart soared. Relief washed over me. And I cried in front of all of these people. I do not do that. I know it was one of my work friends who was behind this—I’m under no delusion that it was all the boss’s idea. (Thanks Allison & Crew!) But that day was a big one for me.
Ever since that experience, I’ve come to value what showing love and generosity in the workplace can do. It can transform co-workers into people who genuinely care for one another. It can give people a sense of belonging and cohesion in their office. These things should not be taken lightly by the owners of any company. Because people who care for one another are a stronger team.
They remember that sort of concern when the next work conflict is presented. They know that underneath it all, their coworkers want the best for them. And that breeds a strong sense of community, company loyalty and even effectiveness.
This seems to be one of the least-employed, but most obvious strategies for keeping the good people you want to keep. Show your workers how much you care for them, how you are invested in their lives and that you want the best for them. Show them how you want their time off to be respected and their personal family matters to take precedence over work emails. Do not shy away from these opportunities to shower your people with love because you think the separation of work and heart is a clean break. That simply is not our reality in 2016.
I’ve come to value what showing love and generosity in the workplace can do. It can transform co-workers into people who genuinely care for one another. It can give people a sense of belonging and cohesion in their office. These things should not be taken lightly by the owners of any company. Because people who care for one another are a stronger team.
This is how you keep good people for the long haul. This is how you build strong teams. I stayed at my last job for six years and I can’t say I would have without that show of love from my boss and team. The year before I left I had a co-worker/friend notice how frustrated I was with my work life. I was on the brink of quitting. She declared one day the “Love Shannon Day” and I got little trinkets, fun messages, and Starbucks from my work family. My faith in the people around me was renewed, and again—I stayed. These experiences were unique, I know that now. But they do not have to be. Knowing that when things got hard in my life I would have support, understanding, and sympathy from these people—it made me a better employee. I’ve never experienced anything like it since.
I try to model that behavior whenever I hear about someone’s personal crisis. I work to recognize people when they’ve gone hard on a project and it clearly taxed them. I find that the kindness principal goes a long way and at the risk of sounding self-serving, it always pays for itself down the line. I aim now to celebrate people and make their work lives more rich by weaving together support, celebration, and recognition. Ultimately, people will stay where they are seen, where they are appreciated, and yes… where they are loved.
You want to keep your workers? Love on them. Love your people.