Faux Love vs. Keeping it Real

Today’s post is courtesy of Joyce Maroney, Executive Director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos.

Today is Valentine’s Day and your inbox has been swamped for the last two weeks with ideas for how to show your valentine that you care. Flowers? Chocolate? Prix fixe dinner with surge pricing to show just how much you’re willing to over-extend the budget to demonstrate your everlasting love?

We should put our wallets away. For most of us the things that mean the most to us when it comes to relationships are not the V-day gifts. They are the consistent gestures of caring and respect throughout the year. The coffee made from freshly ground beans every morning by a partner who doesn’t drink coffee (Thanks, Dennis). Saying thank you. Taking the dog for a walk when it’s nasty outside. Noticing when you’ve made an extra effort. Approaching your relationship with the attitude that impact doesn’t necessarily signal intent.

Since workplace issues are our groove here at the Workforce Institute, I am going to make a connection here. True love doesn’t happen without a solid platform of mutual respect, communication, and trust. Loving partnerships aren’t in perfect balance at all times, but over time both partners feel they are getting back at least as much if not more than they are putting into the relationship. How often do relationships feel like that in the workplace?

With unemployment at record lows, many organizations are struggling to find and keep the talent they need. As a result, more are paying attention to the “softer” issues of culture and employee experience. Some will take the time and do the diligence to understand what really matters to their employees. They’ll invest in closing gaps that exist in their employees’ experience and that make them more likely to look elsewhere for better opportunities. They will be honest and direct in their communications about those gaps and what they are prepared to do to close them. And then there are the organizations who’ll take the Valentine’s Day approach, hoping that the occasional event or program will do the job.

A friend recently told me about the roll out of an employee engagement program in his workplace. His story isn’t very different from what goes on in a lot of organizations. A consultant has been hired. There are communications exhorting people to get excited about the coming program. And the employees in the workplace in question are rolling their eyes. Why?

It’s the simple things. Leaders are short on thank you’s and long on exhortations to work harder. Recognition, when it happens, feels inauthentic. Leaders avoid interaction with employees, creating a climate of mistrust. People stay at this organization because the work is interesting and the mission is compelling, not because they are trust their leadership. How powerful would it be if both things were true?

In work, as in love, real partnerships thrive on consistent, reciprocal, and honest communications. Chocolates are great, but actions will always speak louder than empty promises.

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