Your crystal ball: What workers want and don’t want

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a crystal ball to see what each employee wants or doesn’t want? With such information you can be the Pavlov of productivity—conditioned reflex at its finest.

You’ll know just what to give to whom and when to get the most out of everyone.

Unfortunately, no such clairvoyance device exists. But all is not lost.

If you gaze into the text below, you may find the ball is not needed after all.

What they want:

  1. Honesty. Your credibility is fragile when it comes to those who look up to you for direction and approval. Lies, distortions and misleading information will alienate your employees, some of which will seek a better boss elsewhere. Though it may hurt, give them the truth. They really want it.
  2. Fairness. Do you dish out work as evenly as possible? If you avoid handing out the extra work to people who will complain about it (“you put something on my plate, now take something off”), you have established yourself as an inequitable, spineless leader. Those who took on the extra work will quickly see that your job is to make your job easier, and they’re just a catalyst for it. Employees have a knack for sniffing out unfairness, even when the scent is faint.
  3. Respect. Your staff is made up of people. You may see them as a receptionist, a billing clerk, a sales rep or whatever title they have. But they’re people first and people crave respect. And believe it or not, they really want to respect you. Sounds like a pretty good deal. Don’t ruin that magic by belittling them or scoring some humor points at their expense.
  4. Genuineness. Employees spend a big chunk of their time at work and there’s nothing worse than spending it with a phony. Save the insincere laughs, feigned interest and the dubious effort for the next managers meeting. Or maybe consider being genuine in everything you do.
  5. Appreciation. A few of your employees do stellar work. Most of your employees do occasional good work. Recognize it and let them know it. Next to pay, employees covet praise.

What they don’t want:

  1. To be your friend. They see you as a mentor, not a pal. Give them the guidance and tools they need to succeed in their jobs. That’s where the line is. Don’t forge a friendship with one or two workers. They really don’t want to go with you for after-work drinks or head to your place for a Sunday afternoon cookout. And come to think of it, you don’t want that either.
  2. Personal talks. Your workers don’t want to tell you their long and winding personal problems, and you don’t need to hear them. That’s what their co-workers are for.
  3. A comedian. Though laughter is the best medicine, your employees will quickly overdose on your perpetual silliness. Levity is necessary, but workers do need to see that you take the work seriously. When the whole day becomes a joke, so will you.