Small Business

Small Business Ethics: How to Keep Your Employees Happy

We talk a lot about how to make your small business more successful on this blog, but seldom do we discuss one of the best ways to increase efficiency and improve your company overall. That said, today we’re going to examine one of the first and most important steps to making your small business perform better: keeping your employees as happy as your customers.

Of course, your customers are your business’s life blood, and they should always be treated with the utmost respect. But, what of your employees? Where would your company be without them? How would you perform the work your company is best known for if they weren’t there with you?

The answer is, you wouldn’t, and your company wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near where it is today without the loyal assistance of your hard-working employees.

Acknowledging that fact is the first step toward building a better morale for your business overall, which will undoubtedly help make your business more successful.

How to Pay it Forward

Treating your employees well is a fundamental way to help your business perform better. Why? Because inevitably, no matter how much contact you have with your customer personally, there will come a time when your employees will have contact with your customers too.

If you own a business that is customer service-centric, it’s even more important that you treat your employees well, so that your employees will in turn treat your customers with that same respect.

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Giving your employees the same amount of respect you expect them to deliver to your customers will help you take your level of customer service from so-so, to spectacular, and you’ll do it with less effort.

Be the example that your want your employees to emulate. Holding expectations for your employees that you yourself do not meet does not help to encourage them to perform up to your standards.

Accepting personal responsibility as a business owner helps to show your employees what you expect of them. The more you take credit for your own misgivings (not the easiest thing to do, in many cases), the more others will do the same.

Josh Patrick, founder and principal at Stage 2 Planning Partners says, “At the end of the day, trust is what it’s all about. If we don’t treat our employees the way we treat our best customers, they will stop trusting us. And it’s very difficult to get that trust back.”

Keep Calm and Avoid These Behaviors

As the ‘boss’ at your company, you want to give your employees a good impression and encourage them to believe in the company the way you do. With that said, here are five behaviors it’s important to avoid if you want to boost the company morale.

  • Don’t terminate an employee without an explanation. It’s almost impossible to ignore the fact that a co-worker is no longer working with you when someone gets fired. It’s also a common response to want to understand the nature of what the co-worker did to warrant termination. Don’t let your employees fear for their own jobs. Instead, explain the situation accordingly.
  • Don’t keep quiet about company money. That may seem counter-intuitive at first, but think about it. How would you feel if you worked at a business that’s rumored to be in the hole? You’d probably start looking for a new job. Give your employees the necessary information that helps them see the big picture.
  • Don’t ignore valid employee complaints. Not every employee complaint will warrant a business owner’s attention, but when they do, remember to take them seriously and try your best to resolve them.
  • Don’t talk about the sale of the business too soon. Selling a business is a big decision, and one that usually isn’t made at the snap of a finger. Don’t talk about the sale of your business in front of your employees until you’re sure you’re selling, unless you want your employees to jump ship.
  • Don’t change strategies too quickly. Take the time to inform your employees if you plan to make any major changes to your business strategy. Most people will want to know why, and that is exactly what you should help them understand.

A Good (and Bad) Example

You may have recently heard about the public firing of Abel Lenz by AOL CEO Tim Armstrong that occurred in early August of this year. Now, firing an employee in a public meeting (a conference call with over 1,000 other employees) is probably one of the worst ways to terminate someone. Not only does it cause the employee unnecessary embarrassment, it also makes you look bad.

In addition, it makes other employees wonder about their jobs, especially if they don’t understand why that employee was so promptly let go.

But, at the end of the day, everyone makes mistakes. Even business owners. The key to overcoming a mistake of this nature is to apologize, and that’s exactly what Armstrong did.

A few days after the incident, Armstrong sent out an email to AOL employees that said, “I am writing to acknowledge the mistake I made last Friday during the Patch all-hands meeting when I publicly fired Abel Lenz.”

The best thing you can do to right an issue in your business is to admit responsibility, and in doing so, encourage your employees to follow your lead.

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