Your Employees' Secret

There is a dark secret that is rarely discussed in the business world. Instead, the opposite of this is discussed more. Knowing this secret can change your perspective, your business’s productivity and your employees’ happiness. Ready - here it is:

Your employees actually like to work.

Yep, I said it. Now, if your employees are overworked, please ignore the rest of what I’m about to say because you're dealing with the other side of the pendulum, but if you think there’s a chance they might not be, let’s keep this going.  Your employees like to work. Maybe they don’t like getting up for work or waiting on rude customers or doing a dirty part of the job. But they like to work. I know this because there is nothing more life-draining than a day at work with nothing to do. It’s like the company and world is yelling in your face -


I was in the mall a few weeks ago and noticed a kiosk for a local cable company. Seated at it was a cable company employee, facing a TV on the kiosk, changing the channels. She was clicking through, likely trying to find something good to watch. She looked bored out of her mind. It’s possible that she should have been trying to sell cable packages to passerbys, but she wasn’t. Maybe this is all on her. But I couldn’t help but wonder what the business was thinking having someone sit there and watch TV.

I’ve worked at companies where they basically had me on standby - like the setting on a computer - to wait on customers, answer phones, process forms, whatever, whenever the need arose. I’ve also worked at places where there was always something to do. Though no place is perfect - the places where there was always something to do left me feeling much better about myself at the end of the day.

It’s like a workout. You might not be thrilled to get up and go to the gym and you might have way more on your workout than you think you can do, but at the end of it you’re amazed at what you actually got done and you feel great that you did it. If employees are going to be fulfilled in their work, then they need work to do. We all want to know that we’re needed, that our existence matters, that at the end of the day it made a difference we were on this earth. Yes, your employees have a lot of other roles in their lives in which they fulfill this (being a parent, volunteering, taking care of their pets, etc.), but if you don't give them enough real work to do, they are going to hear that they aren’t needed (at least at your business) and be looking to find a place where they are. People can’t continually hear the message that they aren’t needed and not react to it in someway.

I worked as a hostess at a chain restaurant the summer after my freshman year of college and this place had time management of staff down to a science (maybe most restaurants do). Hostesses and servers came in at times perfectly synchronized with high customer traffic and then were told to go home as managers gauged the customer flow. It was beautiful. I worked almost the whole time I was there. I don’t think this was primarily motivated by a respect for employee’s time, but rather for keeping the restaurant’s expenses as low as possible. Still, I was thankful that while I was there, I was working.

A hostess is a need-based position though. Maybe you don’t have the luxury to be able to send someone home when you don’t have immediate work for them. However, there is always something to be done, right? You might need to do some work to figure out what that is or you may have to give up control and delegate some tasks, but you need to ensure that your employees know there is real work that requires them. They need to know that they add value to the world through their work. Because they do.