Ok, so I can’t see the title to this post without Aretha Franklin screaming in my ear. But it’s true – what employees want is RESPECT. That is the number one answer I received recently, when asking about a dozen people their number one wish in the workplace. “I would like just some basic respect, and to not be treated like cheap labor. Talk to me like I’m a person, not a sub-species!” Others said, “I would like my manager to know that they can depend on me to do the job they gave me”, another response was, “I want to be trusted. I believe that I’ve demonstrated that I’m trustworthy, attentive, and able to do my work. I’m tired of being micro-managed!” And my favorite response, and definitely one that I can relate to, “I want my manager to back me up and not throw me under the bus. If I handle a situation improperly, then we can discuss that in private, but I really would like the sense that when I handle it RIGHT, that my manager will have my back!”

I know that I can relate to these sentiments, as I have had my fair share of the finger-pointy menace, or the one who even though I handled a particular situation as per protocol, still steamrolled me, leaving me looking like a moron, and she the hero. (That client was a jerk and didn’t even deserve that huge favor, but I’m not bitter.) I have also had plenty of times where I was told that the customer comes first. “The customer is the most important part of our business!” While this is not 100% untrue, I would like to submit that it is also not necessarily 100% true. See, the thing is, if you put all of your eggs in the customer’s basket… well, then you’re forgetting about the chicken who laid them. She’s important too – if not just a little bit more so! Follow me down this rabbit hole… for, without your employees, there potentially would be no customer, and with no employees or customers, you would have an imaginary business. Yes, I know that without customers, there would be no employees, but hear me out.

If you are running a business, and you have a miserable, untrained, unprofessional, uninspired employee base, then what do you think will be your customers experience? They too will be miserable, uninspired, and unfriendly…and probably unwilling to come back to your establishment. If your employees seem happy, relaxed, knowledgeable, and ready to work with a smile, then accordingly, your customers will pick up on this and be inclined to give your their hard earned money! Basically, it’s an “if you build it, they will come” theory. Happy employees = big business. Miserable employees = pack it up.

If you are not worried about the very people who you bother to hire and spend more time with than your own family, the folks you hopefully train and depend on to show up to work every day, handle your product, and trust with your money, then where is your business? If your team is not even a team, if every man is for him or herself, then what do you believe will be your customers feeling when coming to you? Seeing a group of detached and disgruntled workers will not inspire loyalty or trust from your client base.

I remember when I worked at a clothing store as the Store Manager. I had several teens and college students working for me, and they were great. We had a great rapport, they were respectful, and did their jobs. The owners, a husband and wife team, were complete…well, they had zero clue as to how to manage employees. At. All. Sure, they knew how to run the business behind the scenes. But they had literally no people skills. This was made evident by the fact that when they came in a couple of times a week to check in and work for a few hours, or drop off product, that the male owner would bark orders at employees, sending them off crying, scream at other employees for making a simple mistake, even get ultra sarcastic and snippy with me, their manager, when I asked for help or guidance on something I was stuck on. His interviewing skills consisted of, “You look too old to work in a clothing store for teens…why should I hire you?” And his marital strife with his wife/partner in the business was always apparent on the sales floor as he would demean her and condescend. At one point, as I spoke to a customer, he walked up to me along side of the customer, clapped in my face, and said, “I’m TALKING TO YOU!” To which the customer looked at him point blank and handed him her arm-full of clothes and said, “You are the rudest person EVER. I won’t be back!”

And she was right. He was the absolute pits. I think that was my worst manager… there have been others, but none like him. I left that job not too long after that, when I had a sick child to attend to, and he suggested I still go to work, but have one of my employees take the day off to babysit my kid. That was super weird, and inappropriate in my eyes, and I gave my notice then. I couldn’t take much more of his remarks, and constant watching us on the video cameras from his house, calling us to tell us he could see us, and had his eye on us. I say, if you have to do all that, then fire all employees and run your business yourself.

So. What do we do?

We focus on our number one priority. Which is learn to work with people. Treat people with basic respect and trust. Treat them the way you would expect to be treated by your own management. If we get the right people to do a job, let’s make damn sure that we train and mold and develop these folks to be YOU when you aren’t around so you don’t have to spend your Friday and Saturday night staring at your surveillance watching their every move.

If you show the employee respect, they will show the customer respect. If you are bothering to hire someone for a role, then you have to show that you trust them. It’s hard to trust people, sure. I can fully understand that. People lie, cheat and steal. It is what it is, but then deal with that when it happens. Allow your managers to handle that. If it is your belief across the board that everyone you encounter is out to get you, then I suggest you work solely for yourself. In a cave. In a land far away. Because that attitude will get you nowhere. I believe in trusting people until they show you that you can’t. And at that point, do what you have to do. I also believe (perhaps naively) that most people can be trusted. My idea is that I NEED to trust them, and so I will give them a shot. No, I may not hand them my bag of money the first day and turn my back, but I need to as their manager, set my expectations very clearly at the get-go, and let them know that this is their opportunity to help me make this business a success. This is their time to shine, and all of *this*, whatever *this* is, is a team effort. There seems to be more of a propensity for people to start off on the right foot when they feel ownership in something, and that they are a valuable asset and needed and wanted.

And when your employees take ownership, and feel valuable…they make your clients feel like a million bucks. Which brings in the million bucks. Happy employees = happy clients = more money for you to roll around in on your king sized bed, if that’s your thing. Hey, you do you, I don’t judge. Just don’t forget to kick some your employees way as a thank you for earning you that moolah!


  • Jill Burrus

    Here to create better management & employee relationships with thriving business as a result

    As a long time business professional, I have been on both sides of the fence. I've been the employee many times, and I've been the manager more often. Though I still answer to my own manager, as a trainer, developer and leader, I have often wondered where the disconnect formed between most employees and their management. Years of experience has led me to see that not all trainers and managers are meant to deal with people. Yet, they are still put in positions to do so. This leads to miserable parties on both sides, and a business that suffers. I'm tired of that. I want to see all parties succeed, and businesses thrive. Enter, S.H.E. Professional Development. Here to create better management and employee relationships. I am a married mom to two beautiful girls in South Carolina, with a passion for writing, empowering people, seeing folks succeed. I am an artist on the side, write children's poems that I am in the process of publishing, and an avid learner of foreign languages. *Fluent in snark, sarcasm and other sometimes undesirable behavior!