"Screw you guys. We’re not going to take this crap anymore."
That’s what Greg Smith said, and it’s national news now. Before you think this sort of flaming couldn’t happen with one of your former employees (or isn’t already happening in hushed whispers in your hallways), let me assure you that it could (and might already be). Now, is it poor form for them to do it, as Ron Shevlin and others have opined? Yeah, I think so. Is Smith brave or stupid for doing it? I’m really not sure it matters. What we know is that something made the guy snap and want to get the heck out of Dodge. And that something was what he perceived to be a toxic culture.
“But wait!” you say, holding up the decidedly OK results of your latest employee engagement survey. “This survey says we’re fine.”
I say the following as one who thinks those surveys have their place, and as one who thinks engaged employees can be a ridiculously huge competitive advantage. But you can take your surveys and shove ‘em sometimes. There are some out there who don’t think they tell you anything anyway. Me? I think we’re too quick to use them as a crutch. We’re too quick to pat ourselves on the back for “engaging our employees” when in fact the survey can actually be a pretty safe way to avoid doing just that. We can sit in our offices and wait for the data to roll in. No uncomfortable moments with the other humans. No awkward silence after someone brings up a legit criticism of your leadership. Nope. None of that.
We’re finding ways to de-humanize leadership and culture, and if it hasn’t already, before long it’s going to bite us in the rump. At least a chunk of your employees likely don’t give two shekels about your survey. They’ve taken them before, and they’ve seen you do nothing with them before.
So here’s at least part of the solution. Ready? This is going to blow your mind.
Be more human.
OK, it’s not really the end; that was just for dramatic effect. But the point remains – be more human. Be vulnerable with your team. Admit mistakes. Admit weaknesses. Heck, be a little weird (Lord knows I am). Connect with people around something beyond simply how well they can check the boxes on their list of job functions.
Think about real, human ways to engage the other people you work with. Forget, for a second, trying to formalize everything. Try letting it grow organically, but don’t misunderstand what I mean when I use the word “organically.” I don’t mean just sit back and wait for engagement to happen on its own, as if some employee engagement fairy is going to sprinkle magical employee-engagement-pixie dust all over your employees. You’ve got to be intentional.
So don’t put the cart before the horse. Don’t build some massive employee engagement “program.” Get at the problem at a more human level. You don’t need some executive-level sanction to build a more human culture (at least I hope you don’t). It starts with doing simple things like talking to your fellow employees, regardless of what title anyone holds or where their office or cubicle is situated.
Start figuring out what makes them tick, what their dreams are, what their vision for the organization is, and so on. Start helping them see why their work matters and to whom it matters. Start having conversations – some substantive, others just having fun – with your fellow humans.
So it’s simple, but it’s not easy. Connect with people. Be vulnerable. Be real. Help them. People helping people – I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere before.
Matt Monge is a credit union executive by day and Mojo principal by night. Matt’s primary passion is his work as VP of People & Development for Fort Campbell Federal Credit Union, but in the spirit of the cooperative principles, he does speaking and consulting work on the side to help other organizations with what he’s passionate about: developing awesome culture and leadership. He has been recognized as one of Credit Union Times’ “Trailblazers 40 Below,” and has spoken at CUNA’s national training and development conference in addition to other events. He has written articles for Training magazine, the Credit Union Times, the Credit Union Executives Society, and other blogs and publications. He is also a Training magazine Top 125 Award winner. Matt is earning his Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University. Visit Matt's website and follow him on Twitter.