Business Is Always Personal – How to Get the Most Out of Your Employees

Posted by on Tuesday, January 14th, 2014


Every business transaction is personal to someone.
Image Courtesy of Flickr’s Creative Commons, User: CabinetOffice

“It’s not personal, it’s just business.”

I’ve never liked this phrase.  After all, when it comes to downsizing or firing an employee, to them it is definitely personal. It affects their life.  When it’s a case of voluntary turnover and an employee is choosing to leave you, it feels personal, right? Either way,  it’s involves people and their emotions, and to try to remove that is to distance yourself from the reality of the management.  In fact, the more you invest yourself emotionally in your relationships with employees, the less likely you’ll find yourself in the situation of having to terminate someone or watching a valuable employee leave you.

Building personal relationships in your workplace is your best tool for competitive success, to motivate your employees, to ensure great performance and to retain quality workers. One small staffing company I worked with early in my career treated people as disposable. Anytime the company had a financial setback, the owner would cut people. I watched the boss (let’s call him Tom) fire people for a myriad of inappropriate reasons.  He fired people that had walked away from lucrative positions at other companies based on his promises of employment longevity.  He even fired a single mom who had just adopted.

Because it was a small business, firing people allowed Tom to make sure his personal finances stayed consistent when the business took a dip, but this was at great cost to the livelihoods of those he terminated. Tom was transferring all of the business risk onto his employees. Once word spread in the staffing community, he found it more difficult to hire quality employees and his business took a downturn that many ex-employees would have said was much deserved.

Business is always personal and it’s important to know that.
Image Courtesy of Business Master Minds.

Next door to us in the office building was another staffing firm that made a commitment to not lay anyone off when their business also took a dip (post 9/11). They saw themselves as a “business family” that could weather the storm together. Everyone (owner included) took a pay cut. By putting himself in the same boat with his workers, he cemented their familial bonds. Everyone buckled down and the company recovered quickly as employees rewarded the owner’s commitment to them.

Dissatisfaction with their manager or supervisor is the most common reason people leave jobs, as well as the most common reason people turn in lackluster performances. Not only should you develop personal relationships with your employees, but you should encourage them to develop these relationships with each other. A study on workplace relationships out of Galgotias University wrote that workplace friendships can lead to:

1) More cohesive work groups

2) More satisfied and committed employees

3) Greater productivity

4) Greater goal attainment

5) Increased positive feelings about the organization

6) Better job performance

7) Prevention of employee turnover and employee desire to leave the company

You may think that it’s not possible to effectively manage your employees if you have personal relationships, but I find the opposite to be true. If you know what’s going on in their lives, you know how to motivate them, what their pain points are, and what’s important to them. By getting to know your employees, this can inform other key business decisions, such as which benefits are most meaningful. And to help you afford those benefits that are most important to your employees, consider captive insurance as an alternative to traditional.

Employees are also more willing to take criticism because they know it is coming from a friendly and honest place. And if you’re in a mid-to-larger sized company where it’s impractical as a business owner to reach out to each and every employee, get to know as many as you can. Then encourage managers to deepen their relationships with those they supervise.

Every business transaction is personal to someone. It’s unavoidable. And rather than trying to dehumanize business relationships, we should do the opposite and embrace how personal business really is.

Owen-Dunn is a trusted advisor on risk, benefits and insurance to clients of all sizes and across all industries. Our passion is creating intelligent, flexible coverage solutions for both captive and traditional insurance clients. Contact us today or join us at one of our events!

One response to “Business Is Always Personal – How to Get the Most Out of Your Employees”

  1. […] is a greater need for collaboration. Furthermore, when companies establish a workplace culture that promotes strong bonds among employees,  it is better able to achieve increased positivity, motivation and productivity. To encourage and […]

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