Moving and making mountains

in work •  2 years ago  (edited)

I've been considering, of late, of what makes a good employer, versus a bad employer, and six things strike me as perfect examples of the stark differences between the good and the bad.

Dedicating time to staff:
At Telstra, you couldn't get anything done by asking. You had to be the squeaky wheel. You had to walk tha fine line between being tolerating the status quo, being just annoying enough to spark change or to even ask for something easy, and ensuring you don't get yourself into a position where people don't want to help you.

Things weren't great at Telstra - management reached an eventual stage where people were actually acting on their threats to leave for better shores, and morale was at an all time low. Even asking your manager to adjust something incorrect in your schedule, give you some stats, or talk to you about something was a pain in the arse to achieve.

But at my new role, the managers all take the time to not only listen, but to act. I asked my team leader for some stats for my personal tracker, and he told me right away that he was busy, but would get to it by close of business - and he did, from home. He didn't have to, he could have excused himself for one day, but he met his promise.

Monthly cake days:
Birthdays at Telstra were spotty at best. Sometimes your team would do something, sometimes they wouldn't. If they did, you might get a cake and some gifts, sometimes they might swing a card. While I hold no expectations or demands, and appreciate any gesture, the randomness of it all left some people without anything.

At my current role, every month, the management buys enough cake for every one of the 100 or so staff to celebrate the birthdays of the month. Enough so that everyone gets a piece of something unhealthy, something healthy, something for fans of chocolate or mousse, or those with gluten allergies. Everyone gets a card, everyone gets cake. No one loses out.

(incidentally, the managers also got a request for a healthy snack day, and responded by saying 'great ideas!' and doing it)

Coffee machine
Most offices have coffee. Those big ol' iundustrial tins of cheap powdered shit, a few jugs of milk, and sugar. Often BYO cup. Maybe, if you're lucky, they spring for more expensive instant coffee.

If you're really lucky, they might buy a coffee machine, but usually it's a pod machine (BYO pods, or maybe they'll sell them to you), or maybe it's a coin-op machine that dispenses coffee from powdered milk and coffee. Maybe it's a full espresso machine, but usually it's limited to managers and guests, or broken in a matter of weeks.

My work decided to buy us something similar to the coin-op machines, but it uses real milk, and real beans. It's free of charge for all to use, and makes a pretty great cup of coffee. Not as good as expert baristas, sure, but the important part is that they don't charge, and it's good quality.


Now don't get me wrong here - it's not the fact that they buy us stuff that I'm liking. It's the underlying motive behind it all. It's one thing to just buy food or cakes - Telstra did that all the time, and often, but the motives behind it never felt like they had good intentions. It seemed that every time they announced they were restarting the Monday fruit delivery, or buying stuff for sandwiches, or loads of candy, or whatever else, it was just something they did to tick a box that said "we are good managers look at what we do for you."

For Telstra, it was just an action to be performed. Someone in a meeting suggested buying us something, and they went with it because their programming went beep boop and determined that yes, buying stuff for people will finally make them love and respect us.

The underlying motives behind my new employer seem both genuine and caring. They're not buying cheap cakes. Getting together cheap bulk lollies. Giving us cheap materials for nachos. Buying us a cheap coffee machine and then selling the rights to use it. They're buying qualuty cake for all of us so we all get to celebrate everyone's birthdays. They bought a quality coffee maker because they know we like our coffee. They held a barbecue for us with decent sausages and sides because we worked hard during training. There's a level of true care for our welbeing, knowing that happy staff are good staff.


Positive coaching and reinforcement
At my old jobs, coaching generally involved telling the staff what they were doing poorly at, and telling staff ad hoc that they were failing, or falling behind, or needed to work harder. Being constantly told how shit you are really doesn't work to helping you be better.

Currently, however, both day-to-day interactions and one-on-one coaching has been nothing but positive for me. Telling me what I'm doing well at and, even though I've more than made all my stats, my manager still gives clear direction on what I need to do to keep maintaining the numbers. In cases where he's had conversations with people who need to work on something, reports are all that they were made to feel positive during the interaction, with clear goals and options for improvement, followed by clear results improvements.

Day to day interactions
Even daily interactions with managers are positive. Managers will say hello to you every morning, goodbye when you go, ask how you are, ask how that movie was that you went to see, ask if you're feeling better. If they hear you have a bad call, they make sure you're okay. If you say you're stressing, they'll stop what they're doing and come have a chat with you. They tell you if you're doing well that day, and make a clear plan to help you improve if you're not.

Sick leave
By far one of the clearest examples of how things should be is how they handle someone calling in sick.

At Telstra, calling in sick would get you the third degree on what was wrong, why you couldn't come in, and demands to see a doctor, as well as refusal to accept any other documents like a chemist report or a statutory declaration. Often it included arguments, passive-aggression, and even outright accusations of lying about your illness. Managers once asked us to sign agreements to allow them to speak with our doctors, and even started telling people that if they wanted to leave early the only way they could would be to call an ambulance.

On return from being unwell, even for a minor cold, you;d have to attend return to work meetings and deal with the fallout of daring to be unwell.

(I have it on good authority that this practice stopped when they got a severe fine for abusing this).

By stark contrast, however, the conversation when I called to advise I had a cold was:

Me: "Hey, just calling to let you know I'll be away for a day or two because I'm unwell."

Manager: "Oh, that's no good. Do you mind if I ask what's wrong?"

Me: "Just a cold, but best I stay home and not spread it."

Manager: "Absolutely. Well, sorry to see you're unwell, and thanks for letting us know. You stay warm and get better, and I'll see you when you're back in. Just make sure you get a certificate or stat dec or something. Feel better soon!"

When I returned, he asked me if I felt better, expressed gladness that I did, and told me if I needed anything, let him know.


And the end result of being treated well like this couldn't be clearer. People at work are happy. There's a positive vibe in the office every day. People don't try and squeeze more than they can out of things by coming back late from breaks or using sick leave for can't-be-fucked days. If someone is asked to do something a little extra - take a break later to cover a surge of calls, work later to cover a missing person for the last 15 minutes of the day, or work from a different office to help out another team, then people do it happily and willingly.

And so it brings something to mind that demonstrates the clear difference between a good employer and a bad employer:

For a good employer, staff will move mountains.
for a bad employer, staff will make them.

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