How to Retain Good Employees

Even the slightest things can generate big problems later on, like a boss who impatiently drums his fingers as an employee pitches an idea, or the co-worker who is left out of an e-mail loop on a critical project, or the supervisor who constantly interrupts employees before the can finish explaining.

These so-called "microinequities" may seem like trivial things to fret about, but if you think about it, even you do not want to be treated insignificantly or indifferently at work. You do not want to be called in a sarcastic tone, or having other people roll their eyes or turn their backs as you talk.

Employees might be willing to let go one or two such rude gestures, but if a boss or immediate supervisor habitually treats colleagues disrespectfully, they would feel demoralized. This would often lead to attitude problems, lack of productivity, and increased absenteeism.

In worst-case scenarios, the disrespected employees leave and would even end up suing you for these unwelcome gestures.

So how do you stop these microinequities?

Understand what they are – That is easier said than done, because many such offenses are committed subconsciously. For instance, a boss might now be even aware that he is mispronouncing a colleague’s name or that he is glancing at his watch during an employee’s presentation. Understand that such actions can actually send a message even if you don’t want to.

Pay closer attention to workplace behavior – Conduct an role-playing exercise between managers and rank and file employees. Ask participants to pair off, with Person A discussing his current job, responsibilities and challenges while Person B smiles and listens attentively. Then, have Person A discuss his last job while Person B immediately begins fidgeting, checking his cell phone, looking around, or any gesture that shows disinterest. After the exercise, ask Person A how he felt about the disinterest. In most cases, increased irritation would be a routine response even though participants knew it was just a game.

Provide awareness – Supervisors might bring up the topic at staff meetings to demonstrate their awareness, or pass along a company e-mails and newsletters that talk about microinequities. You could also conduct attitude surveys.

Going forward to everyone – Pay closer attention to all your employees, not just on your prominent workers or those you are most comfortable with. Consider engaging in non-business conversations so you can develop rapport, respect and trust. Solicit suggestions from them, or maybe ask what they are working on. Most importantly, give direct eye contact and listen attentively to them.

Be sensitive – In group settings, be sensitive to how you greet or treat a colleague you are close with, so it appears you are not playing favorites. Also, give public credit to "owners" of good ideas and encourage participation from everyone.

Create "microaffirmations" – Positive gestures may seem small or insignificant, but they can help produce a giant return on investment, which is an engaged workforce that feels appreciated and is motivated to perform.

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