Guest Article: 10 Things Your Workers Want from You

Workers are human beings. That may seem obvious to you, but because of that simple fact, we’ve got decades of behavioral science research that can help us understand what they want.

Here are ten things that workers want from you…

  1. They want to know what you expect. If they don’t know, they’ll either guess or decide not to act until they know. Neither of those is a choice you want them to make.
  2. Lay out your expectations individually and for the group. They want you to be reasonable. Your workers want you to set reasonable performance targets and give them the resources they need to hit those targets.
  3. They want to know how they’re doing. So tell them. Give your workers frequent feedback on their performance and how it compares to expectations.
  4. They want to know how to do better. Tell them that, too. Your feedback should help your workers meet the expectations that you set. Remember that lots of small course corrections are almost always better and more effective than fewer, bigger corrections.
  5. Workers want you to treat them (accordingly). Behavior and performance should have consequences. The two should match up. Good behavior and performance should generate good consequences. Poor behavior or performance should generate negative consequences. Consistently.
  6. They want work that is interesting. For some people, the challenge of doing excellent work is enough. For others, the specific job they have is interesting. For others, you have to help make things interesting by helping people grow and develop and by setting up competitions and comparisons.
  7. They want work that is meaningful. Tell the people who work for you how their work helps the team succeed. Tell them how the team’s work helps the company succeed.
  8. They want to work in a safe and congenial place. Workers want to be physically safe. They also want to be safe from harassment or unreasonable demands or punishments.
  9. They want you to deal with the slackers and attitude poisoners. You’re the boss, so it’s your responsibility. Identify the malcontents and malingerers. Give them the opportunity to mend their ways. If they don’t, get rid of them. They want as much control as possible over their work life.
  10. Give people as much freedom as possible to make the decisions about how and when and where they’ll work.

Take a look back over the list. Most of the items probably seem like common sense. They are. Because we’re human, too, we probably want the same things. Most of the items probably seem easy to do. They are. There’s nothing on the list that requires massive effort or significant budget expenditure. Most supervisors will do some of these things easily and naturally. The trick is to do them all, day after day, with unremitting diligence. Then you get a cumulative effect.

Taken together these simple acts can transform your team into a place where morale is high and the work is excellent.

Wally Bock helps organizations improve productivity and morale. He is the writer of Performance Talk, and authors the Three Star Leadership Blog, coaches individual managers, and is a popular speaker at meetings and conferences.