The other day, my teenager came into my room to say good night, and mentioned he was probably going to start looking for another job…
The backstory: My son turned 16 at the end of August and by the end of September had a job! Woohoo! Working locally for a major fast-food chain type of establishment, he has enjoyed “bringing home a paycheck”, getting to know co-workers, and feeling productive. I can tell he is proud of himself – he has a new sense of self.
…my first reaction (albeit internal) was “Hmmm…what the heck? job-hopping already?”. Instead I asked “Why, what’s up?”, he responded that he didn’t get a job to work 3-4 hours a week (initially they had him working 12-15, and now that they’ve hired more kids (a few of his friends!) and his hours have been reduced). I suggested he talk to his manager.
THEN CAME THE REAL STORY.
He said, “Mom, it’s not just that…it is a sad place to work, really sad. It’s pretty bad.”
Wait, what was that? Sad??! “What do you mean by ‘sad’?”, I asked. “Well, the managers are older (anyone is “older” to a 16 year old, right?), and they’re really pissed off that they work there. They’re mad all the time and take it out on us. I try to do extra stuff on my shift, but they make assumptions that aren’t accurate, and instead of talking to us, we all get blamed as a group. The environment is pretty bad”. There ya have it folks.
This was a lightbulb moment for me. Although I see versions of this situation in client companies all the time, to have my son articulate it at such way, really took it down to some core leadership basics. After all, his job is pretty non-strategic/tactical. He doesn’t have complex job requirements or work-on-intense-team-projects. It’s pretty basic, which makes the leadership part, or lack thereof really stand out. Bottom-line, the culture, can make or break motivation. For him anyway. He’s a smart kid (I’m not biased on this one, I swear!). He knows this is not his life-long job, but wants to to do then best job he can in the moment. As he said “they would get so much more out of the workers (a.k.a. employee engagement) if they treated them better (a.k.a. culture) – the culture…greatly shaped and impacted by management/leadership. Out of the mouths of babes.
This, coupled with a Gallup article I just read, stating roughly 51% of employees are disengaged, and another 17% are “actively disengaged”, indicates there is a huge need for leaders to step up and LEAD. Employee engagement has been hovering around 33% since 2000, and this epidemic is WORLDWIDE, not just U.S. based. The impact and repercussions to the global economy are substantial.
Many companies measure employee engagement with annual surveys, group discussions, and exit interviews, but what are they doing about it? Core management activities like work expectation clarification, clearing hurdles that prevent employees from doing their work, developing employees, and promoting strong relationships are critical to-do’s in raising employee engagement statistics. Consider this is a Call-To-All-Leaders: these aren’t just to-do’s, these are essential part-of-the-culture-gotta-haves. Step up and lead.
The end of the story: My son and friends have begun the job search. But some of this is on him! I am encouraging him to go talk to management first. However, when trust and relationship is lacking, it is highly unlikely employees are going to go out of their way to have a difficult conversation with their boss…it’s just not part of the culture.