Archive for August, 2008

Good Behavior by Decree?

August 12, 2008

How A Simple Contract Can Motivate Employees to Create a Kinder, Gentler (More Prosperous) Workplace

Consider the things your employees do that you wish they wouldn’t. Allison, for instance, chews gum—loudly—when she’s on the phone with customers. Calvin consistently forgets to turn off his cell phone at critical times. (Last week it burst into a rousing chorus of “It’s a Small World” during an important meeting) These are not bad employees, but they do have bad habits that irritate customers and coworkers alike.

If you assume there’s nothing you can do about such all-too-human flaws and foibles, think again. You can legislate good behavior—and what’s more, the vast majority of employees will be glad you did.

Don’t assume people will feel that you’re infringing on their rights when you create a set of behavioral rules. Most of them are as irritated by the offenders as you and your customers are. Besides, most people appreciate ‘official guidelines’—it eliminates their own confusion as well as that of their coworkers.

You might assume that, say, knocking before entering someone’s office is a “common sense” behavior. But it’s not always. Common sense is a subjective concept, depending in part on an individual’s background. Still, it’s very important that every employee display behavior that’s consistent with company standards and aligned with desired outcomes.

Obviously, you want employees to leave a positive impression on customers. And it’s also important for morale to have everyone behaving in appropriate ways. Employees who frequently behave in ways that their coworkers deem inappropriate are certainly not contributing to a happy, unified, productive team. And here’s the real bottom line: if you don’t spell out which behaviors are acceptable and which are not, you can’t hold people accountable for them.

The solution is simple and amazingly effective…develop a “Standards of Behavior” contract and have everyone, from CEO to receptionist, sign it. This document can address any and all aspects of behavior at work: from interaction with clients to phone etiquette to “good manners” (knocking on doors) to “positive attitude” markers (smiling or saying thank you).

Often, just knowing that a Standards of Behavior document exists creates an extra boost of awareness that really does affect day-to-day behavior. It creates the same behavior expectations for the entire team. Best of all, it functions as a tidal pull on problem employees, bringing them up to a higher level of performance.

You may worry that enforcing Standards of Behavior will create a company of robots—a company in which human differences are discouraged in favor of mindless conformity. It won’t! An office unified by agreed-upon standards is a far more pleasant place to work. Plus, individual responsibility flourishes, because it’s clear what everyone’s responsibilities are. That contributes to an environment of fairness, cleanliness, and good manners—and happy customers who keep coming back for more.”

Yours in service,

Quint