Darrell Berkheimer: Pressure culture costs corporations boatloads
Will corporate America finally learn that a high-pressure working atmosphere is much more costly than considerate, low-key management? Perhaps the virus pandemic has helped to drive home that message.
In articles published last month, two professors cite “a long list of studies showing high-pressure cultures actually cost businesses a boatload of money.”
The two professors — Yale Emma Seppl and University of Michigan’s Kim Cameron — are cited in an article written by Jessica Stillman for INC.com.
The article observes that leaders “might be shy about admitting it (even to themselves), but deep down many believe that driving your team harder and pitting them against each other leads to greater performance and a healthier bottom line.”
“The only problem with that understanding,” according to Seppl and Camerson, “is that a small mountain of studies suggest it just isn’t true.”
They point to additional health-care costs as a result of sickness and increased use of the company’s insurance plan. They cite high turnover that increases recruiting and training costs. And they explain that a “culture of high pressure” creates a likelihood that employees will grow disengaged from their jobs.
The results of that disengagement is noted in “studies by the Queens School of Business and the Gallup organization.” Those studies report “disengaged workers had 37 percent higher absenteeism, 49 percent more accidents, and 60 percent more errors and defects.”
In addition, companies “with low employee engagement scores … experienced 18 percent lower productivity, 16 percent lower profitability, 37 percent lower job growth, and 65 percent lower share price over time.”
Regarding turnover, the professors note “workplace stress leads to an increase of almost 50 percent in voluntary turnover,” which costs, “on average, 20 percent of a person’s salary to replace them.”
None of this is surprising to me because I had worked for an editor who was an intimidator, constantly monitoring the efforts of individual employees. I was in that job only one year.
I also had worked in an office where the managing editor was a motivator. He occasionally surprised staff members with little notes on their desks, thanking them for their efforts and work. He was my mentor, and from him I learned a manager’s job involves a duet of service — that serving staff members is every bit as important as serving the employer.
He explained the results he wanted, provided training as needed, and exhibited the flexibility necessary to deal with the latest developments.
He said, “These folks know their job. They’re creative. Just tell them what you want, and then let them do it.”
I discuss such management issues in detail, including the importance of trust, in my 2013 book, “People Skills — What Employers Want Most!” That book was partially the result of a day-long seminar on communications organized more than 35 years ago. I collaborated with a professor at the former Utah Technical College at Provo, now Provo University.
I also recall when a small daily newspaper where I was managing editor was sold by one newspaper chain to another. Shortly after, a two-mant eam from the new owner’s headquarters office spoke to my editorial team during our weekly staff meeting.
The one corporate honcho said: “Today there are only two types of employees — those who are overworked and underpaid, and those who are unemployed.”
Does that sound like a winning corporate culture to you?
That attitude pushed out a publisher and three department heads, including me. We felt forced to seek a more mentally rewarding work atmosphere.
Unfortunately, such pressure attitudes have prevailed for more than three decades since then.
I think the results of such attitudes are being expressed today by the millions of employees who quit their jobs this spring in search of better pay and benefits with other employers.
An Aug. 10 article by Jennifer Liu for CNBC reports 3.9 million quit their jobs in June alone. And June was cited as the third straight month of record-breaking job openings – reported at 10.1 million, the highest on record.
Another 943,000 jobs were added in July, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
And the job-switchers are experiencing success. “While average wage growth for all workers increased just 1.5% in June compared to a year ago, it’s up by 5.8% for job-switchers, according to the latest Workforce Vitality Report from ADP, the payroll company.”
The company added that job switchers joining employers with 500 or more workers are reaping the largest rewards with pay jumps averaging nearly 7%.
Liu’s article adds that “Many employers are having to compete for workers by offering attractive signing bonuses, higher pay, better benefits and more accommodating work schedules.”
Professors Seppl and Cameron have concluded their research, and studies show quite convincingly that happiness at work boosts employee productivity, making their employers more profitable.
And nearly all of this information tells me that millions of workers have decided they no longer will accept a toxic work environment. Perhaps the pandemic has prompted them to realize life is too short to continue in an unhappy situation.
Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He has eight books available through Amazon. His sixth, “Essays from The Golden Throne,” includes 60 columns published by The Union, plus a dozen western travel and photo essays. Contact him at email@example.com.
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