Respect for People Leads to Better Employee Retention

With the first quarter underway, everyone is leaning into 2021 with great expectations. Last year, technical and process levers were pulled to address business problems brought on by the pandemic. Now that things are settling a bit, it’s time pay more attention to people – your people. Doing a few things to ensure health and cohesion at work has as much impact on your business as any process or technical solution. Showing respect for people and following a few simpler rules leads to happier, more productive teams and better employee retention.

Telling Stories

Whether 2020 was crushing for your business or gave you an unexpected boost, everything changed. Job changes, pay cuts, more work, less work, remote work, lost colleagues, family stressors… the list goes on. People are still under stress. But from this chaos there is an opportunity to draw people closer, be attuned to their needs and be thoughtful with your intentions. Leaders must pay attention. Mis-steps here will shape their future and the futures of their companies. These are the things that people remember and the experiences from which stories are told – both good and bad. 1

What People Expect in a Relationship

Interactions at work are relationships. They are important. Good relationships have certain qualities. People expect things from them. For example, they want to be kept in the loop with information that is relevant to them. Seems reasonable. Or, they notice and appreciate when those inside the relationship keep their commitments. No surprise here. The point is, work relationships with team members, peers, subordinates and bosses are no different than any other relationship when it comes to what people expect. And you know what happens when people don’t get what they expect, right? They get upset.

Good communication is important. Showing respect is important too. It’s tough to argue against either of these. But in this instance, they’re too vague. They don’t give enough texture to what must be done to foster better connectivity and teamwork. So here are 5 specific things that everyone expects in a good relationship and that anyone can do.

5 Relationship Expectations

  1. To Be Kept Informed
    People need to know what is going on and how it might affect them. Communicating what you know, when you know it. Say what you don’t know too. Try to have the obvious questions answered beforehand.
  2. No Surprises
    Surprises are triggers. See Rule #1.
  3. Accessibility
    Being accessible is not the result of emails or standing meetings. It sometimes happens during the after-meeting and is harder to do in the virtual world.
  4. Commitments Kept
    Be prudent with your commitments. Keeping them is vital. Credibility is on the line.
  5. Follow Through
    Maintain momentum and cadence. Simple responses and acknowledgements help. Ask questions. Dig deeper when you need to.

On Balance

Sometimes we forget or even avoid the human side of the equation. How we treat others is more noticed than business processes or technology innovations. If people are your most important asset, treat them that way and do the small things that build stronger bonds and better teams. Everyone will be more engaged; your business will be better and so will the stories that are told.


  • A 2019 Gallup poll estimates that voluntary employee turnover costs US businesses alone $1 Trillion annually… and much of this is fixable.
  • 1If you are interested in how experiences, memories and the stories we tell about our lives are connected, check out Daniel Kahneman’s epic TED Talk on happiness: The Riddle of Memory vs Experience (20 minutes).
  • For a deeper dive related to this topic, register and download Engage the Organization for a Performance Culture white paper.

Feedback from Colleagues – A Moderated Thread

If you have a story to post, send it to me: jtimpson[at]

The Importance of Trust

Certainly the 5 steps go a long way to building or destroying trust.  I view trust as the accelerator in a change model.  If you have trust you can go a lot faster.  We did some things right out of the gate last year that I believe proved critical to our success.  In March we told our employees we were going to keep everyone employed even though we knew business was going to drop.  We wanted to remove uncertainty for them and their families.  We asked them to take the time they would have and double down on improvement efforts.  Our improvement efforts sky rocketed.  We focused on improving efficiency and increasing capacity.  We also accelerated our digital transformation and accelerated efforts to automate processes and cross training as we were concerned about how quarantine would impact absenteeism.  To improve communication we developed our own 5 tier system on how we would operate, later the state adopted a similar approach of color coding counties.  We provided daily, then weekly video updates on what we were doing as an organization. 2020 was certainly a challenging year.

~Bryan Debshaw (CEO Polaris Laboratories)

Personal Responsibility

This is a great article. However, I would like you to consider another point of view….honesty and transparency. Everyone is accountable for there performance and if they are falling behind, their leader must be honest with where they are not living up to expectations. We should be clear, performance is up to the individual, not the leader… we are all accountable for how we perform, our leaders should help us, but success is up to me!

~Matt Taylor (ex-Woodward Inc.)

Rational, Emotional and Political

I watched the 20-minute video, The Riddle of Experience versus Memory.  I found it fascinating. My key takeaways.

  • Experiential happiness and memory happiness are different; this distinction must be understood and recognized when attempting to affect either.
  • Because experiential happiness is fleeting and memory happiness is error prone; businesses utilize performance metrics to enhance their business decisions.  (The 20-minute video did not say this – nonetheless, this was my key takeaway).

My second point stated another way: Businesses are affected by the rational, the emotional, and the political.  Experience and memories affect our emotions and our politics.  Performance metrics affect the rational.  Because businesses are run by humans, we will never eliminate the emotional nor the political.  To the extent that organizations can minimize the emotional and the political and maximize the rational, they will be more successful.

~Bradford Anderson (Ex-Saudi Aramco)

Good (and Great) Leadership

I gave your article some serious thought and offer some commentary.  I agree with five keys points to build strong relationships.

From my perspective, a good leader takes a genuine interest in people at a personal level and not just on a professional level.  A good leader recognizes that people are motivated by many factors and one of the strongest factors is friends/family.  The need to financially and emotionally support a family is a key driver for the actions of most everyone.  Let’s face it, work-life has morphed in many ways to a 24/7 culture, especially with the continued evolution of technology.  It is a challenge for people to leave work at the office/factory/field and focus on the family.  Good leaders recognize the need to let people take a break from the “grind” and recharge their energy for the coming days.  This recharge usually happens at home.  Good leaders also take a deliberate approach to acknowledge the personal side of employees’ lives.  This might be done by opening a conversation about someone’s family, hobbies, favorite sports team, or many other topics.  Communication is key and listening is an imperative.  A leader should also not be afraid to talk about their own personal lives.  Strong relationships are built around an understanding of what drives people.  Many years ago, my wife and I were going to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary and we were planning to dine at a restaurant in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I reported to a leader that was very good at interfacing with me on a personal level, and through our daily conversations, he became aware of our marriage milestone.  This kind of conversation was a regular part of our daily interaction.  When my wife and I arrived at the restaurant and were greeted by the server, we were told that a bottle of champagne was waiting for us.  Much to our surprise, my manager had contacted the restaurant and purchased the champagne to help us celebrate!  This kind action sent a powerful message and became a learning moment for me as a developing leader.  My manager’s action told me that he recognized I have a life outside of the office and that he had been listening about my upcoming plans. The fact that he took time from his busy schedule to contact the restaurant and surprise us made me feel valued and motivated to follow in my leader’s footsteps.

~Mike Whittenberg, Repeat Precision

Communication is Key

What comes to my mind is an experience we have had at one vendor’s manufacturing site, south part of Russia. We came to a final inspection and to discuss terms of equipment punch list fulfillment after delivery. It was a big piece of equipment (a vacuum column with weight over 560 tons) and required water logistics before ice closes navigational period in Omsk. And the window was about to close, we could not afford waiting for another year. So the supplier was in a hurry, their local management explained an action plan and that there were some defect spots on few welding seams (4 meters in total) – welders had to cut out these spots and weld them all over again with further NDE (non-destructive exam). My colleague and I were at the shop floor next to our unit being processed. I began to suspect that the repairing activities were not up to promised schedule. So I asked my companion to climb to a welder and talk to him, find out if something is missing or he needs help. After 5 minutes conversation we realized that the welder was irritated, he required consumables and assistance of a metalworker, he was waiting for more than 3 hours. Next I talked to another worker and find a similar situation. Long story short – we have investigated this and realized that there was no communication or connection between production management and their value adding personnel at the shop.

Before we experienced this scenario our inspector was meant to execute both inspection and expediting activities while visiting manufacturing site. As a corrective measure we separated these tasks when managing vendors with low rating. In other words if, for some reason, the vendor experienced difficulties to keep up mfg schedule, two resident inspectors were engaged at shop floor and the one doing expediting performed daily milk runs to make sure production management and value adding workers linked together and daily schedule/plan was followed.

I hope my example helps you adding some value.

~Pavel – Oil and Gas Industry