ROANOKE, Va. — I have a diverse work crew with 11 different languages spoken among my 75 employees. I live with cultural diversity every day.
I am understandably proud about how well the crew gets along and works as a team to get the job done. I think an essential part of the success can be attributed to a daily ritual I have developed.
Every day when I get to work, before I dive into the challenges of managing a large central hospital laundry, I take a walk through my laundry and make sure I say “Good morning” to everyone in the laundry. When I started this, my employees were a little shocked and not sure what the crazy boss was doing.
My motivation for doing this was to make sure that every employee felt like a valuable part of the team and to make the boss a little less scary.
It is easy to say that you have an open-door policy and employees are always welcome to come ask you questions. The fact that you have important decisions to make and an office is most often all the intimidation line employees need to keep them away.
Your management position puts you in a position of power over them, and to keep the lines of communication open and to reduce turnover, a manager needs to do something different.
In my case, it was simply walking around and saying “Good morning” to every employee every day. A simple smile and a “Good morning” lets them know I see them as a part of the team and that I care about them. A smile, a wave and a “Good morning” gives them a connection to the boss.
I just had an employee retire after 46-plus years on the job. Working for the laundry was the only job she ever had. She enjoyed coming to work every day. We were her family. I am sure that, over the years, she had lots of opportunities to take other jobs for more pay and less physical work, but she decided to stay at the laundry. When I asked her why she stayed for all those years, the answer was simple, but powerful—“I feel like I belong here.”
Some say turnover is inevitable in entry-level jobs like those in the laundry industry, that employees will always be looking for something that pays more or is less physically demanding. I have never believed that this statement is true. Instead, I have always believed that people work where they feel valued.
They work where they are treated with respect. A simple “Thank you” is treasured by our employees.
I watched with interest as a linen company went out of business a number of years ago. Toward the end, the people they hired to be supervisors had to fit a certain physical body type. They had to be tall (at least 6 foot, 3 inches), they had to be built like a football player, and their presence had to be intimidating. They managed by fear. Sadly, that works for a while, but it will never develop employee loyalty or goodwill.
I challenge you to be more open to your employees. Take the time to smile and say “Good morning” to each employee. If you are going to do this, then make sure you do not miss anyone or they will wonder what they have done wrong. It is most likely the most valuable 15 to 20 minutes of your day.