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Friday, 01 March 2013 10:57

Building Humanity Into The Workplace Featured

Written by Indrek lepner

11-BuildtingHumanityInfotheWorkplaceOrganizations invest a lot of time and resources in recruitment. However, when it comes to keeping their employees, it is frequently a different story. Many organizations struggle with issues related to employee morale, engagement, and retention, and they think the reason employees leave is the lack of sufficient extrinsic motivation. This may not always be the case. It is often insufficient intrinsic rewards that drive employees to seek new opportunities. Every organization can make their workplace intrinsically rewarding. They just need to develop management practices that embrace fundamental human needs and values in the workplace.


Autonomy and Mastery

Autonomy is our basic need to control our own lives. That includes having control over the resources needed to do our work and the authority to decide how to get the work done. Employees want to be empowered to make decisions that influence work procedures and organizational direction. They want to contribute to the organization’s success. Research suggests that the worst thing that can happen to employee’s productivity and engagement is to have high demand and low control over how they meet the goals. The question is not whether employees are able or willing to take action but rather whether the organization will tolerate creative problem solving outside of its centralized control structures. Managers should give employees goals and direction. Employees themselves need to decide how to go about accomplishing the goals.


We all have a basic need to exercise competence. We want our knowledge and skills to be used to make a valuable contribution and to improve those skills. Managers need to give employees feedback on an on-going basis to foster their learning and development. Feedback delivers the most value when given whenever exceptional or ineffective performance is observed. A lot of managers choose to be “kind” and hold back honest feedback. If you continue to tell employees that their performance is fine, they will have no reason to improve. You set them up for failure by offering only comfortable messages. They do not know what skills and abilities they need to work on in order to improve their performance. Every manager’s responsibility should be to help their employees succeed. One of the great opportunities to foster employee development is through delegation. Delegating tasks helps enhance employees’ existing skills and develop new ones. Managers need to clearly specify the desired results and transfer authority and responsibility that are needed to successfully get the job done. It would be best to give the employee a whole task, not just a part of it. If you can’t delegate the whole task, make sure they understand the overall purpose of the task. Managers need to find ways to give their employees more opportunities to do what they do best. It is considered one of the most important satisfaction drivers.

Two-Way Communication

Employees want to be included in organizational information networks. They are interested in receiving information about their job and about the organization as a whole. Employees want to know what the organization stands for, where it is going, and the progress it is making toward fulfilling its objectives. Both the good and the bad news should be given to employees in a timely manner. Employees sense it quickly if some of the information is being hidden or leaders are not being honest with them. Sharing information and being open about what is going on in the organization increases employees’ trust and engagement. As communication is a two-way process, organizations also need to create opportunities for employees to voice their concerns and offer ideas. Managers should actively encourage employees to share their thoughts and ideas. It is not only about allowing employees to speak their mind. What is even more important is whether employees’ ideas that are different from those of their managers are sincerely welcomed and respected. Managers need to thank employees for ideas and seek ways to apply them.

Balancing Work and Personal Life

Organizations need to recognize the shift in work attitudes (work to live, not live to work) and that employees have personal lives. Most employees have big responsibilities in their family lives. They may be raising children or caring for their aging parents. Organizations can promote employee engagement by finding ways to help employees balance their work and family commitments. Humanfriendly employers want employees to feel good and safe about their jobs while taking care of personal issues. They don’t punish employees for having problems in their personal life and are willing to go beyond what is required by law. They give paid time off with job protection to help employees deal with unexpected personal life issues. They provide alternative work arrangement options to help employees better match the needs of work and personal life on a daily basis.

Positive Relationships and Healthy Climate

Community is the overall quality of social interaction at work. It includes issues of conflict, mutual support, and the capacity to work as a team. People thrive in community and function best when they share praise, happiness, and humor with people they like and respect. A sense of belonging disappears when people work separately instead of together. Managers need to find ways to foster collaboration and teamwork whenever possible. Permanent and unresolved conflict with others produces feelings of frustration and hostility and can be one of the most destructive factors in the workplace. Managers must closely observe work relationships and climate. Moreover, they should encourage employees to voice all concerns as they arise. Managers also need to have a plan for dealing with challenging people. If not, you can lose your best people as they become demotivated. You also run a risk of developing an unhappy and unhealthy work climate. Challenging people are neither happy nor productive and can be divided into two major groups: persons demonstrating and spreading bad attitude, and underperformers.

Problems related to challenging people will not resolve themselves. Managers need to address these issues when they first become aware of them. When addressing bad attitude or behavior, begin a conversation the minute you see it occur. You should find out why your employees behave the way they do, and what you can do to help them change their behavior. You should set a certain time frame for solving the behavior issue. Otherwise it may go on forever.

With underperformers, you need more time to figure out why they underperform and what could be done to improve their performance. The reasons can be complicated and multidimensional. You still need to set a certain time frame for things to change for the better. You can’t afford to be ignorant about underperformers as their performance affects the success of the team and the entire organization.

How to Make It Work

Managers are mainly concerned about what employees can do for them. They seem to be less worried about what they can do for their employees. It takes a shift in mindset to see the organization through the lenses of employees. Performance measurements help managers see management through new lenses. Making your workplace humane should be built into your managers’ competency models and into the organizations’ performance measurement system. In order to change the way managers think and behave, include behavioral expectations into their performance measures. To make progress, building humanity into the workplace should be one of your key measures. Your managers need to demonstrate on an ongoing basis what they have done in regard to making the workplace more humane. You should encourage managers to have open discussions with their employees about how to build humanity into the workplace and how it should be effectively measured. In order to transform management culture, this needs to be your top priority. Managers at all levels in the organization need to adopt a “human-friendly workplace” philosophy and put it into their management practices.

Focus on developing management practices which embrace fundamental human needs and values and implement performance measures to change the way management is practiced. In doing this, every organization can make their workplace intrinsically rewarding.

Indrek Lepner is a graduate student at Rollins College majoring in human resource management. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. References BlessingWhite (2011). Global Employee Engagement Report. New Jersey: BlessingWhite, Inc research.asp?pid=1 Brown, T.L. (2008). Delegating Work: Expert Solutions to Everyday Challenges. Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation- Christensen, R. (2006). Roadmap To Strategic HR: Turning A Great Idea Into A Business Reality. New York: AMACOM Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W.B., & Leiter, M.P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397-422. Maslach, C., & Leiter, M.P. (1997). The truth about burnout: how organizations cause personal stress and what to do about it. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers. Pink, D. (2009). Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. New York: The Penguin Group. Pulakos, E.D. (2004). Performance Management: A Roadmap for Developing, Implementing and Evaluating Performance Management Systems. Virginia: The SHRM Foundation Smith, S., & Mazin, R. (2004). The HR Answer Book. New York: Amacom Spitzer, D.R. (2007). Transforming Performance Measurement: Rethinking the Way We Measure and Drive Organizational Success. New York: AMACOM