When we talk about improving relationships, you might think it’s touchy-feely advice for personal relationships.
However, we have business relationships, too. Is your workplace filled with good relationships? Or does it have its share of poor, dysfunctional relationships?
Pretty much every workplace involves people working with people. How well we get along makes a difference. It’s a more pleasant work environment if everyone gets along, but that’s not all. There’s also the issue of productivity.
Good relationships contribute to how motivated we are to work, how effectively we work, and in extreme cases, whether the business stays in business. Relationships can have a significant bottom line impact.
Let me tell you a little story. You decide whether you think it’s a story about an actual workplace, or if it’s just a product of my overactive imagination.
Vance started working right out of high school and stayed at the same company for 30 years. Every single day since anyone can remember, Vance has been grumpy. Not just mildly grumpy, either. Nope, Vance is truly unpleasant—to his coworkers, his bosses, everyone.
Because Vance does his job competently enough, his manager, Bill, has never considered firing him. Even though Vance is so very unpleasant.
Finally, Vance’s retirement day rolls around.
Bill, who has suffered through Vance’s grumpiness for years, finally decides to clear the air. In their final meeting, Bill asked Vance a remarkably honest question:
“Vance, why are you so grumpy?”
Well, finally! Vance has the opportunity to unload! “You bet I am gumpy! You want to know why? I’ll tell you exactly why!”
So Vance began his story. Twenty-five years earlier, while Vance was a young, eager worker, trying his best, being nice, going above and beyond, here’s what happened.
One day, Vance had a particularly challenging workday. He’d experienced several equipment failures through no fault of his own. In spite of those challenges, he had not only rather cleverly managed to solve his equipment problems, but had still managed to produce exactly what was expected. It was a triumph! He was so proud of his initiative and performance.
His boss at the time, who had been nowhere to be found all day, wandered around as Vance was about to go home. “How things go today, Vance?”
Vance beamed as he described how he had solved these problems and still managed to produce. When he was done, he waited eagerly, certain that he’d earned a little pat on the back.
What did the boss say?
“Huh. So, you did your job.” And he walked away.
Now, Vance knew that not everyone could have done the job he had done. He hadn’t expected a big award, but really, a complete brush off? Not even “Thank you”?
At that moment, forever seared into Vance’s mind, he became grumpy. He vowed to do his job, but not one iota more. No going out of his way, no pleasantries, nothing that was not strictly demanded by his work contract. This became his modus operandi.
So Vance continued for twenty-five years. One day after another, he went through the motions competently, but doing the minimum.
What did Vance lose by choosing this response? He grew into a grumpy old man whom no one wanted to be around. His enthusiasm and curiosity faded. His joy in work disappeared.
What did the company lose? An innovator and problem-solver; perhaps even a star performer. We’ll never know.
What would it have taken to turn this around? Vance wanted recognition for his initiative and achievement—a minute or two from his boss that genuinely recognized his effort could have gone a long way.
Does this story ring true to you? Does recognition, or the lack of, have an impact on the bottom line?