My 37th wedding anniversary is coming up this month. While there were some who thought that our pairing didn’t make sense and wouldn’t last – it has.
I’m sometimes asked what I think are the biggest contributors to staying married. I think about how I sometimes joke in presentations and training programs when the topic of motivation comes up, that being married does not motivate people to stay married. Many folks (OK, more men than women, but that’s just been my experience; yours may differ) think that marrying someone is the best indication of “I love you” that there is. Once accomplished, it doesn’t really have to be said again.
When I say that out loud, program participants and audiences laugh. But there is also some recognition that perhaps they have not done the things that make their partner feel loved. Today’s employers are starting to notice that providing people with employment is not the same things as motivating them. If you don’t show them that you ‘love’ them, they look elsewhere.
You can’t undo months of neglect or poor treatment. You can’t magically erase the challenges you were facing while everyone was holding on with their fingernails. But you CAN do some of the things that matter, because they matter now:
Ask What They Want – Don’t assume that they are just like you want the same things you want. Ask them! Find out what they would find motivating. While you are on that subject, ask them what de-motivates them too. While you can’t promise anyone a job that is free of unhappiness, you can at least know what hurdles may be placed in their way.
People Leave YOU – It’s not HR, or the Board of Directors, or the compensation committee, or the CEO (unless that’s you!) who is in charge of retaining your employees – it’s you! Most studies indicate that allegiance (as well as disloyalty) lies with the boss. YOU are the one in charge of keeping your good employees.
Get Out of Their Way – Most people want to build a positive future with the organizations they work for but if you are not helping them design that attractive future, you could be standing in their way. They aren’t interested in spending a lot of time trying to change you or teach you. They’ll just leave.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T – How do you show that you value others and make them feel welcome? Are you making eye contact when they stop in to talk with you – or are you scanning your screen for texts and emails? Everyone can make occasional prejudgments about others (people with young children go home early; women avoid conflict; people in their 20’s don’t appreciate customers in their 60’s) but if it stops you from showing respect to the people you need to get the work done, they probably feel that. If they don’t feel respected, it makes little sense to stay.
Go to Grow – If employees think that there is only a small chance for them to grow professionally, whether it is the amount in their paycheck, their title, skill development. or level of responsibility, they will leave. You lose the investment of time and money, the potential they would have contributed and you might have provided the competition with an advantage.
Or Else – If you make your employees choose between work and home, you have planted the seeds of stress and resentment. Yes, it can come down to a difficult choice but as adults, it’s theirs to make. Punishing them for not choosing as you want or as you would makes you act like a harsh parent, and it may cause them to act like unhappy kids.
In addition to the above points, I’d encourage you:
Laugh – keep a sense of humor because laughter works wonders
Be patient – few things happen as fast as we’d like
Forget 100% – don’t expect everything. Have interests outside of the job or your partner
Above all else – in work and in marriage, make a good choice. One that works for you now and has the potential to change and grow as you will, in the future.
There are no real secrets to happy employees or a happy marriage. The challenge is to remember the basics cited here and attend to them on a daily/weekly basis.