Contributed by Anna Thiele
Anna Thiele is a Deliberate Directions intern. She graduated in May 2021 from Boise State with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and a Certificate in Leadership and Human Resources.
Anna took her first leadership role in 2016 at a TIPPS camp at the College of Western Idaho. A year later, she was promoted to a management position at Albertsons. Her favorite part of her management job is training and coaching, as she believes this is the foundation to success for any organization.
In her spare time you can find her rock climbing, backpacking, and riding her bike along the Boise River Greenbelt.
I’m Anna Thiele, an intern at Deliberate Directions. In 2020, I led a qualitative survey to understand what employees’ work experience is like, and how managers can optimize their experience.
The survey yielded over 50 responses with Zoomers especially well-represented. (Zoomers are members of “Gen Z”, the cohort following Millennials. Zoomers are born between 1997 and 2012.)
We asked three questions:
- “Does your company treat you differently than how the public perceives you are treated?”
- “Is your boss doing anything that hinders your ability to be more productive?”
- “What recommendations or feedback do you have for your boss?”
The answers we received may seem harsh, but the responses are built from months (or years) of unheard and undervalued feedback. I have a few suggestions on how you should interpret these findings.
- Take this article with a grain of salt and use it as motivation. Dig deeper into the pitfalls within your own company.
- Take initiative and regain integrity for the work you do. For yourself, but also for the genuine hard-working people you hire.
- Invest time in learning what makes your employees feel valued. A common theme is that workers want to work as hard as needed and to feel valued and respected for their contributions. Also, whenever they put in extra effort, try to appreciate it and give them some awards or gifts; you can choose among Successories’ products, it will be an excellent choice for your employees.
With this article, I hope you take note of where improvements can happen within your own company. I hope that you will listen to break-room talk and use it as critical working feedback rather than an attack or as bad employees. Perhaps you have an employee base that is heavily weighted toward one generation. I encourage you to take the measures necessary to meet their needs and make their job worth coming to every day. Not only will this boost your company’s workplace culture, but also increase sales, collaboration, longevity, and more.
From the results, we gathered that over 50% of respondents know the values of their company and yet still choose to stay in their job, even if the environment is hostile. It leads me to wonder what makes employees leave or stay and what bosses can do to alleviate that tension and realign to their values and mission statements?
If a company lives by its values, what is driving the wedge in creating a positive work culture? How can a boss improve?
Read on to learn more from employees’ perspectives.
I thought it would be valuable to hear if companies generally had a positive name within their community. I thought, if a company has a good reputation in their community, they have the allowance to mistreat their employees because their rehire rate would remain constant. I have this impression because growing up my dad would say, “work at X, it’s a good company”.
Our data shows that 47% of respondents believe they are treated differently from how the public perceives, while 53% think the public has a fair interpretation of how they are treated.
To understand this gap, we asked respondents to explain. We found that the inconsistency in public perception comes from four main themes:
- quality of work
Next, I’ll dive into the issues our respondents described in greater detail.
- They work in a dream job but the expectation from their boss is that they take in the duties from their title PLUS other responsibilities.
- While the company projects a team image, employees are promised extra training and coaching but are never given access to those resources. They are also discouraged from using their earned time off, sometimes with emotionally manipulative tactics.
- While the company is perceived as a relaxed, customer centric, nice place to work, the reality is that there never seems to be enough employees scheduled to get the work done. This leads to frustration and poor morale among employees.
- “Treatment doesn’t align with ‘values and expectations.’ Instead we are treated as commodities or resources that can be owned, bought, or traded.”
- “While it’s projected to be family friendly, it’s hard to find coverage for a shift no one wants. Low chances of my manager helping with that one.”
- “The public perceives that my managers must respect my experience and dedication to my work. In reality I am treated like a number, my suggestions for improvement and efficiency are brushed off, and I am expected to go along with the bureaucracy.”
- “The company said they value innovation and women. Yet I was discriminated against several times, one regarding my maternity leave. Innovation was squashed and nepotism was rampant.”
- “Even though it’s a health-oriented company, employee health is not a priority.”
- “The public sees a happy-go-lucky barista when reality is my company sees me as expendable or replaceable.”
- “The public perceives the company to value their employees like family. Reality is that it doesn’t matter how hard I work, the company doesn’t care if I leave.”
Quality of Work
- “Even though I am treated far better than expected, I am paid about 10 thousand euros less than the perceived ‘going rate’ for my job.”
- “There’s a public perception of a well treated caregiver. In reality, management overworks us and doesn’t give any pay raises.”
- “Seemingly carefree, the reality is that management and corporate make behind the scenes very stressful.”
- They display a family centered business while not valuing their employee’s health.
- “Known for great benefits and work culture but in reality it’s high stress, there’s lots of gossip, there’s little consistency in expectations, and there’s a lack of recognition.”
- “The boss publicly espouses how wonderful her team is but in the office she is suspicious, controlling, and vindictive.”
Some jobs are flat out bad. Perhaps they didn’t spend enough time developing their training handbook, or the company is simply run by money? On the other hand, some companies just don’t have the resources and their workplace culture suffers from that.
I asked employees whether their boss was doing anything that hindered their ability to be productive. I asked this to get a better understanding the dynamics and influence that a boss has on their team. There were four themes that arose from this question:
- negative language
Here’s the feedback we received from our survey respondents, grouped into these categories.
- “There is lots of micromanaging and distrust in employees. This leads to unreliable people. They don’t feel they could ever do well enough because no one treats them like they could.”
- “There is a lack of communicated expectations.”
- “Bosses will commit the branch to jobs and inform no one until the day after the project is supposed to be finished.”
- “There is never a cohesive plan.”
- I’m told to never question the directions a superior gives me, even though they are frequently wrong. This causes major issues down the line.”
- “Providing incomplete information and selling clients solutions we aren’t physically capable of doing”
- “Inconsistent direction, lack of cohesive focus on priorities, and almost no internal communication”
- “They tell me to be places I was not scheduled to be.”
- “Makes judgement calls that affect me, but makes the call based on no experience”
- “Asking me to do things that aren’t productive”
- “Doesn’t communicate events happening on certain days”
- “I have no clear boss. I get directions from three different people. When my productivity is halted due to that, I am blamed.”
- Since working from home, manager presence has disappeared except to issue vague threats and post metrics.
- “Employees are treated with zero respect. Managers are overworked and underpaid and never given any proper training. Sexual harassment is a huge problem. They specifically move the problem to another location rather than firing or launching a proper investigation. Employees are treated as disposable and there’s a hostile work environment. There is a hotline but it’s not actually anonymous.”
- “Not hiring enough people”
- “After rescheduling training 5 times, I have had to self-teach new processes and systems to keep work going.”
- “My boss doesn’t understand customer expectations so they end up creating more obstacles than solutions.”
- “If [the supervisors] don’t want to help you, they won’t.”
- “I’m nervous I am going to do something wrong because my boss intimidates and scares me.”
- “My boss stresses about everything, but puts no priority on what should be done first.”
- “[Management] isn’t available or dependable, does not seek to properly train new staff, is lazy, and brings outside stress into the workplace.”
- “Limited staff”
- “Gives me tasks outside of my immediate field of responsibility”
- Prioritizes spending time in ‘survival mode’ vs working on systems that will allow us to operate from a more efficient and smooth space.
- “If I work any faster I’m going to fall and cause an accident”
- “Overworks and burns me out”
- “Piling more responsibilities and tasks on me without providing the correct resources to do so”
- “Increasing the range of what we do instead of allowing us to be experts in our specialization”
- “They are extremely toxic and and impatient.”
- “I reported my boss to HR. The issue got swept under the rug.”
- “Indirect side comments that hurt my feelings”
- “Higher-ups talk down to employees, damaging their confidence. This directly affects our performance.”
- “They encourage dissent between co-workers.”
- “Higher up management was harsh when they knew we were doing everything we could.”
3. Recommendations and Feedback
There are four different generations in the workplace today, each carrying their own special quirk. Intergenerational specialist Jeremy Graves, author of Empower. Promote. Launch. [Repeat], has found that it is highly advantageous to understand each generation’s work styles.
For me and many others in Gen Z, respectful feedback is the key to a successful workplace. It hasn’t always been used correctly but I believe it can provide major benefits when it is properly given and received.
We asked respondents what feedback they would give to their employers if they could.
The themes that arose from this question are:
- prioritizing your teams’ morale
- leading with compassion
I’ll now break down the survey responses, sharing each category one by one.
- “Be nicer to your employees and don’t look over them all the time.”
- “Treat people fairly, keep your attitude up because your attitude affects your companies. Also, have respect.”
- “Care more about your team than the workload.”
- “Please notice how short staffed we are.”
- “Hire full-time internal communicators.”
- “Hire an additional member of staff for our team to carry out the additional work you want me to commit to but that isn’t listed in my job description or contract.”
- “Hire more people if you want more stuff done.”
- “Lower your intensity. We want to succeed as much as you do.”
- “Communicate better the plans for the day.”
- “The entire company has plenty of feedback that they have ignored ten times over. If they would listen, they would stop losing employees.”
- “Focus on the right question, which will help me focus on the right solution.”
- “Please don’t assume I know what I am doing for the day when you haven’t communicated a gameplay.”
- “More thorough and timely communication”
- “Work on not getting so frustrated”
- “Stop talking and listen. We need solutions to problems and a path forward to meet our business goals. We don’t need speeches about why things are wrong.”
- “Consult your employees who know how things actually work before promising impossible things to clients.”
- “Be professional and don’t get involved with your employees’ personal lives.”
- “Bring your directors to the table. Share ideas and listen to feedback without feeling threatened.”
- “Run things by me first. You don’t work in my store. You don’t know how customers affect our daily operations.”
- “Give more direction for all departments. You have a vision of how you want your store to be run, but your department managers are there to help you achieve that. Direct them better on what you want them to do rather than leaving them lost with a list of things with no priority.”
Training / Development
- “The overall amount of projects and tasks leave no time for the day-to-day business.”
- “We had different processes and procedures for doing it, but we are not doing it wrong. Take advantage of our perspective and support us.”
- “Support me in trying to improve things.”
- “Make time to focus on developing the people you lead, not just in their job duties, but personally.”
- “I wish our training would have been more thorough on work-at-home policies.”
- “Have a nicer attitude.”
- “Be more understanding and considerate of your employees wellbeing and spirit.”
- “Don’t micromanage me.”
- “Show more consideration for certain subjects.”
- “The more you work with your employees, the more they will give back in return.”
Not every boss is a bad boss. This was shown through some of the respondents’ positive feedback about their boss. For example:
- “Sometimes she avoids confrontation and may pass hard things to someone else. Overall, she is understanding and will work with you if you have a difficulty. She also lets you vent.”
- “We are a team and work well together.”
- “Answers all my questions quickly, patient, and considerate when I have something that comes up”
- “Our boss reminds us of the little things we can do to be more proficient.”
- “Doesn’t hinder me from being productive in my job.”
If you are interested in learning more about how to work together with your team, book a free consultation with an executive coach. We’re excited to help you set your goals and align your compass!