September 28; How Can Managers Bank On Staffers’ Loyalty?
MANAGEMENT BY THE BOOK:
365 Daily Bible Verse &
One-Minute Management Lessons For The Busy Faithful

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Chapter Nine: Finance; September 28

Greater love has no one than this:

to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:13

How Can Managers Bank On Staffers’ Loyalty?

Downturn

The grapevine was a tangle of bad news: there was to be no Christmas Bonus. The office whispers continued, “Probably no lay-offs; we’d have our jobs for another year.”

The Board of Directors wanted to buck-up the team and brought in Upbeat Consultants (I hated those guys). The chirpy UC’s told us that the company still loved us and would not abandon us—just yet. The CEO really, really cared…

A few years later as a consultant I would render the same loving advice to senior leaders. Cut your bonus—not the staff. But few organizations would listen: I didn’t know how good and rare my old CEO was.

…he didn’t take his bonus. Instead he quietly divided the modest reward among his staff.

***

Your Business Professor was working for a manufacturer when we had a down year. Very down. And down in the bottom of the food chain, year-end bonuses were not in the budget.

The CEO still got a bonus. It didn’t seem fair. But rather than modestly decline the money, he gave it away. Sliced thin the CEO’s bonus was only a few hundred bucks for each of us hoi polloi, but the boss set the example and demonstrated that he cared. He didn’t intend to, but he bought a lot of loyalty. Cheap.

We only found out through the backchannels when a secretary spilled the beans about executive compensation. (The release of private information is ordinarily a firing offense, but, nothing was said. Of course.)

The CEO didn’t risk his life; he sacrificed a wad of cash. I would learn later that there are some bosses who would rather die than lose a dollar.

These narrow thinking managers need to remember that employees today—even in labor intensive businesses—can add value to the company output with thinking input. These days every one is a knowledge worker.

***

It was different in decades past, during high unemployment,

If you worked in an office, secretaries arrived on time in the morning. They didn’t disappear for coffee breaks, didn’t object to working overtime.

“The best guarantee of efficiency is a long line at the factory gate,” was the way Samuel Insull put it…but John Kenneth Galbraith stated the principle less cruelly. The more retrograde an economy becomes, he said, the more service improves. (Manchester 1973)

Economic uncertainty and high unemployment would force other efficiencies. Alfred Sloan, former CEO of GM, wrote,

The great depression of the early 1930’s, despite its contracting effect, did not alter qualitatively the general characteristics of the enterprise except in one particular.

Contraction required increasing co-ordination.

That is, we had to find ways to react swiftly to this most difficult kind of change and to economize. (Sloan 1963)

The Great Depression was a time of desperate personal and corporate survival. Today our social safety nets are more robust.

***

But the wise manager still cares. It has often been said that business compassion is tangible when the boss cares about his people’s money, kids or health.

The life of the organization depends on it.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

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