For many years, there has been quite a bit of talk about employee engagement as a means to lift corporate profits and reduce absenteeism and turnover. However, this talk has not produced better companies. In fact, the evidence shows that incivility and instances of employee abuse are getting worse. Additionally, with profit as the primary goal of organizations, most employees view any benign treatment they receive as a secondary convenience that will dissipate once corporate fortunes decline. That is, many employees still believe they are expendable in the eyes of their employers. This book turns that equation around by examining the practices of twenty-one companies that put the interests and needs of employees first. Profits are necessary but insufficient for corporate health. The companies featured in this book see it as their mission to offer people a better, more fulfilling life for themselves, and assist with that holistic journey by providing the organizational elements people need to reach their potential. They do this first by creating respectful and kind cultures that treat every person as an equal, sentient partner in the success of the company. Second, they diligently work to satisfy people's basic needs: financial security, belonging, meaning, autonomy, self-acceptance, self-confidence, and growth. The result is a web of fellow-feeling: earnest affection among people who feverishly work to live up to both the high standards of the institution and their obligations to one another. By providing a place where people can do their best work and thrive as individuals and as members of a cohesive community, everyone profits.
Contents and Abstracts1Mo chapter abstract
This chapter establishes the basic conditions for productive social living and work. The foundation is mutual respect, achieved by putting people first and through cultural decree. The companies in the sample regard themselves as people-centric, meaning that if a decision is in the employees' best interest and harmonious with an organization's values, the company will take action-even if, in the short run, that decision defies the profit motive. By putting people first, companies uphold each individual's value and integrity. The chapter goes on to explain how a culture of respect is maintained and lived every day. First, companies adhere to basic courtesies, in which they celebrate meaningful life transitions and events and are quick to aid employees in need. Second, they enforce a set of relational principles that are designed to foster emotional control and norms of politeness necessary for top performance in a communal work environment.
2Vergonnen chapter abstract
This chapter discusses how a mutually rewarding climate, one in which employees cooperate and promote one another's success, can be established in companies. Such a climate has three preconditions. One is to establish a sense of abundance versus scarcity, primarily by providing a wide variety of career options to people so that by helping others, no employees need to feel deprived of their own opportunities. A second condition communicates that employees are wanted for the long term and that while there may be ups and downs, in the long run they can expect to grow and thrive with dedication and hard work. The last condition is one of charity: through companies' orientations toward charitable activities in which employees actively participate, people become less egocentric and more accustomed to thinking about others, seeing themselves as part of a larger fabric in which they play a vital role.
3Kindness chapter abstract
This chapter reveals that incivility in the workplace has reached epidemic proportions as kindness has been chased out. Once a core social virtue, kindness is seen as out of place in the modern, hard-knuckled workplace. Yet kindness is extremely valuable in the workplace. Kind relations heighten employees' moods and stimulate greater job satisfaction and performance. The problem with admitting kindness into organizations is that leaders frequently associate kindness with "niceness" or "permissiveness." The chapter explains the fallacy of that point of view: kindness toward others means wanting the best for them so that they mature and succeed. In turn, that means applying standards of conduct and performance and stretching people's capabilities to facilitate growth. Indeed, companies in the sample of organizations speak of themselves as caring meritocracies that depict the balance they want to achieve through the imposition of limits and standards while remaining encouraging and supportive.
4Unruly chapter abstract
This chapter explains how uncivil behaviors are able to infiltrate organizations, spread, and persist. Unless tightly controlled, untoward behaviors have a way of taking hold in decent organizations and transforming them into cesspools. Indeed, the chapter highlights how easily incivility can take over a company. The chapter discusses five ways that uncivil behaviors take hold: leaders do not believe such behaviors occur in their companies; uncivil behaviors are overlooked because of a person's contributions; victims are believed to deserve ill treatment; uncivil behaviors rarely get reported; and bad managers have enablers who allow them to perpetrate their harms. The effects of these abuses are significant. First, they spread: uncivil behaviors beget more uncivil behaviors. Second, these behaviors cause substantial stress, which results in greater absenteeism, turnover, and retributive acts that are harmful to companies' reputations. Finally, uncivil behaviors disrupt interpersonal trust and social relations, which impairs team performance.
5Community chapter abstract
It is difficult to build community when a company's sole focus is on profit. Companies in our sample view profit as a necessary but insufficient rationale for corporate existence. Instead, corporations should improve the lives of employees and customers. With this perspective, the chapter discusses how these companies help their employees become well-rounded people at work and at home. One way they do this is by providing training that is of holistic benefit, such as training on financial acumen and health and wellness. The companies also create close communities that include employees' families, thus providing a baseline of security to assure employees that their membership in the organization is not contingent on financial conditions. The chapter also discusses how organizations inculcate a sense of fellow-feeling, mutual assistance, gratitude, and community through regular outings and social events, and place money-making within a cultural milieu of warm social relations.
6Basic Needs chapter abstract
This chapter describes the difficulties many families have in meeting obligations at home and at work due to insufficient resources: primarily compensation and family-friendly benefits. The chapter discusses the history of the minimum wage, living wages, and poverty and states that pay has not kept pace with inflation or with returns on worker productivity. As a result, the life circumstances for many people are dire and their level of life satisfaction is low. Company benefits come to the rescue for some, but not all. Many companies do what they can to help employees cope with work and personal obligations, but many of these benefit programs are expensive and either not offered or unaffordable to low-wage workers. The programs discussed in this chapter include healthcare, childcare, flexible scheduling, and time off.
7Belonging chapter abstract
Companies underscore the importance of fit and belonging through their rigorous recruitment, selection, and socialization processes, which ensure that the people hired are compatible with the values of the organization. Feeling a part of something with others fosters well-being, increases happiness, and improves performance. Conversely, feeling ostracized or left out produces many counterproductive work behaviors, including retaliation. This chapter provides several practices companies use to ensure that the people they hire will fit in and thrive. It also discusses one problematic side of social integration: conformity. Often people will go to great lengths to be accepted, including expressing attitudes that comply with the beliefs of the group. The chapter proceeds by explaining how to guard against conformity; for example, by hiring curious, independent-minded thinkers; by providing a culture of safety to say precisely what one thinks; and by reserving time at meetings for dissenting points of view.
8Meaning chapter abstract
Many people complain about the mind-numbing attributes of work. Using a few Greek myths as a platform, this chapter examines what gives work meaning and what robs it of its significance. It discusses the intrinsically satisfying aspects of work, such as executing tasks of interest and challenge, having responsibility for an end-result of one's own doing, being able to exercise a broad array of skills, and making the decisions one believes are best. The chapter explains how companies introduce playfulness, challenge, and influence into work, and provides a series of cautionary notes about actions that can undermine work satisfaction. These include accepting mediocre work, being unorganized and having no clear goals, assigning pointless work, and marginalizing people's contributions. The chapter concludes by highlighting the reasons for work and observing that some reasons promote happiness, while others do not.
9Autonomy chapter abstract
This chapter explores how enlivening it is for employees to be able to be themselves at work. The companies in our sample give their employees plenty of opportunities to demonstrate talents or abilities that are unrelated to work. These companies also provide other outlets for personal expression, such as special creative projects that connect with the organization's needs. The organization plays a supporting role in employees' independent decision-making by ensuring that people are well trained, have the information and equipment they need to perform at their best, and have the organization's blessing to act on their own initiative and take accountability. Autonomy also pertains to various types of work teams in which members have the authority to pursue objectives (within the means of the team) with limited interference from outside forces. Indeed, many companies count on this independence of thought and action to keep the organization vibrant over time.
10Self-Acceptance chapter abstract
The way companies respond to employees' actions profoundly affects how employees think of themselves, influencing their job satisfaction, performance, and commitment to the organization. This chapter explains that organizational acceptance of employees' differences, and supportive management, are instrumental to personal well-being, particularly because these help employees quickly rebound from disappointment. Most of the feedback employees receive is performance related, and, as the chapter maintains, much of the angst associated with performance feedback can be muted by an emphasis on employee development, on recognition plans based on ongoing observations of employees' provision of products and services, and on creation of a feedback culture in which giving and receiving well-intentioned advice is a natural phenomenon. The chapter ends by saying that it is not enough for employees to feel good about themselves; they have to feel good about themselves in the right ways, in ways they can be proud of.
11Self-Confidence chapter abstract
This chapter discusses how organizations nurture employees' capabilities so as to encourage them to achieve their goals. Managers can do this by being sure to marry their employees' capabilities to the challenges they face so that they incrementally experience success along with the rare failure. The chapter further describes how companies buttress employees' confidence by integrating training and coaching moments into the daily regimen. In addition to instilling confidence in individuals, the chapter explains the importance of doing so in teams; specifically, by emphasizing employees' interdependence, their indispensability toward goal success, and a mutually vested interest in each other's success. The chapter also describes that overconfidence is a common bias and may be of evolutionary value given that the successes it brings often outweigh failures.
12Growth chapter abstract
The final chapter discusses the manifold ways that companies contribute to employee growth through such means as seminars, special projects, sabbaticals, and sizable developmental budgets that allow people to attend classes and conferences. It examines how the companies in the sample are open to moving people around the organization and into different functional areas to learn the business and to develop new skills. This chapter claims that expertise requires much more than deliberate practice. It requires quality coaching, the use of strengths or significant personal assets, and a high degree of self-control and self-regulation that are necessary for virtuoso performances over time; for example, by instilling good work habits, which the company may impose through routines or which people learn to apply through repetition. The chapter concludes by maintaining that companies do not only want technical experts; they also want caring people who make sound judgments as well.