(c) 2012 Trina Lambert

(c) 2012 Trina Lambert


We’ve all had that rotten service encounter with the disinterested or rude employee. Oh, I’m sure some of them are just tired of dealing with disinterested or rude customers/clients/patients. But that’s not always the whole story. Often, when service encounters go wrong, management policies have something to do with them. Does the company make it easy for the service representative to do his or her job? And does the company reward employees for providing good service or are they rewarded (or punished) based on markers that show little value for good service?

Even before I was an obnoxious MBA who studied such things, I really believed that companies that treated employees well achieved better business success under most conditions. What’s good for people tends to be good for organizations. As a high school and college student worker, I lucked out, working for people who also seemed to believe what I believed. Then I got out into the real world.

There I encountered people who seemed to work from the belief that employees don’t really want to work and that they should just do their jobs well because they are paid to do them. Talk about beating down a person’s desire to do a good job. The thing is just as there are some employees who always want to get away with the least amount of work, there are also employees who will work their hardest to do a good job no matter how badly you treat them.

But what about the rest of the people? Well, I believe those are the people companies have the power to engage or disengage. When I worked for those who managed by the “people are no damn good” school of philosophy, I watched many intelligent, hard-working, creative people become employees who just didn’t care—or worse, who became blatantly counterproductive. For lack of decent treatment from management, they became detriments to profit.

Maybe because of my various working situations, I still believe what I believed before I entered the real world and before I studied such things in class. Treating people well lifts up most—not just people but organizational structures. I may have been working for myself—a quasi-living-in-the-world-but-not-of-the-world situation—but I have been part of committees, boards, and groups, plus experienced how schools, churches, medical institutions, and businesses interact with me and mine. You can have your “dog eat dog” philosophies and I’ll take my “do unto others” philosophy—which I’ll argue to my dying day is not only good for society, but also for the bottom line.

I seek out nonfiction sources and authors that help me—and help the world, whether that’s reading about scientific, psychological, personal, societal, or management concerns. You can often find me listening to these types of books while I exercise or perform chores.

The current book in (on?) my phone is Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best From Your People by Edward M. Hallowell, MD. I know I really don’t have any “people” from whom to get the most, but if I did, I’d want to use brain science for doing so—especially since the science seems to support my core beliefs after all. Hallowell and I go way back—when our family was just starting on our understanding of the ADD journey, I read and listened to what he (and co-author John Ratey) had to say about the science of ADD and various strategies for working with and excelling with the condition.

Turns out he’s spent many years talking to many people—with ADD and without—who feel burned out from doing their jobs. Much of what he was applying to help people get re-engaged in their work helped him to see what employers could gain by providing environments where employees naturally shone. He believes, as I do, that most people will come through in organizations where people are able to do their jobs well and where they are rewarded for being the thinking, creative people they are.

Hallowell starts his book with a story about a shoe-shiner working at Logan International Airport in Boston. This guy, who is essentially doing nothing more than cleaning the muck from people’s shoes, makes a point to see the light in each person who wears those shoes. He works hard at shining more than shoes by connecting to each of those shoe-wearers as individuals. As he says, “For me, it’s all about the shine I put on the person.”

Imagine how this world would shine if those whose shoes were being cleaned saw the light in everyone who shined their shoes. Retiring the “people are no damn good” school of management is more than the right thing to do—it’s also a practical way to grow businesses, organizations, and institutions, as well as our society.

Ooh, shiny.