I have long subscribed to the adage that “you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.” If you’re nice to people, they’re more willing to work with you in the future. Keeping them happy makes your own job easier. It’s not fun going to work when you have to pull teeth to get information from people.
Toward this goal, I make efforts to be flexible, and to be available for any questions.
I’m also the guy who occasionally brings in donuts. Not every week, but probably once every 4-6 weeks. It’s not terribly expensive, but you can buy a lot of goodwill for the cost of a donut. Recently, when our business partners (accountants) were in the middle of their month end processing, I brought them a box of donuts, too. These people aren’t actually on my team, but on a team we interact with frequently. Imagine if someone in an adjoining department brought in donuts for your team. My small gesture was very well received – even the second level manager thanked me.
Was there an ulterior motive? Sort of. I knew that those people would be testing our new system soon. My company is in the middle of changing a lot of processes, and software deployment is currently not a smooth process. So I was giving them a positive impression of my team weeks before they got to the point of testing. In hindsight, this was a great idea, because the deployment is taking forever.
I also have candy at my desk. Most of the time, I’ll go to Costco and buy big containers of M&Ms, but I’ll occasionally mix things up a little bit. I recently found a great post-Halloween deal on Reese’s mini peanut butter cups. I bought six pounds. On a couple of occasions, I’ve handed out ice cream bars in the afternoon. Once, my boss’s boss was talking to my boss, and I handed an ice cream bar to both of them.[Author’s note: I also have an incredible sweet tooth, so this is not entirely altruistic. So I end up consuming a lot of donuts and candy. I’ve been gaining a few pounds, but managing to still stay on the slender side of the spectrum.]
The end result of all this bribery is that when I have a question, others members of the team are always willing to drop by my desk and help resolve the problem. Chocolate has become the lubricant of productivity.
In the next few months, I will begin pursuing a position in management. There are many management styles. I’m more of a mentoring type of manager. My overall philosophy is that happy employees will be productive employees.
There are many ways to help an employee have job satisfaction. Donuts, chocolate, and pizza are definitely the easiest. But it’s also important to work with them to upskill and gain expertise in their areas of interest. I firmly believe that there is an art to finding the balance between what an employee wants and what is best for the organization. There will be time when an employee just needs to suck it up, because every job has tasks that aren’t fun. But it’s also important to work with the employee to identify that work they enjoy doing – or want to learn – and finding where they intersect with the company’s goals. Sometimes overall productivity might take a dip in the short term, but this may be necessary to build a base for higher long term productivity.
Because happy employees are productive employees.