The Significance in a Cup of Coffee...


Picture this. It’s a sunny morning, and you cheerfully walk into your company’s break room to get a cup of coffee. When you enter, you instantly see several employees looking uncomfortable. Although they are very carefully trying not to look at the source of the tension, it’s the only thing happening in the silent room, so your own gaze goes straight to the owner of the loud voice. It is your boss, talking to one of your colleagues. He is standing close to your coworker, his nose inches from hers, and you can hear the condescension in his tone from across the room.

“I’ve told you fourteen times how to do that!” he yells at her. “I’m beginning to question your intelligence. Do you want to tell me what the problem is, or shall I just hire someone who CAN do this report for me?”

I think it’s fair to say that your coworker’s day is ruined. But what about yours? What about all the other break room coffee pourers, who don’t even work for this person, but are witnessing his speech?

All of you are affected. Not only the ones in the break room that morning, it’s farther reaching than that. You all go back to your desks, so dismayed by this open display of disrespect that of course you tell the people sitting around you. They tell a few more. And suddenly, this boss of yours, this one man in this one short moment, has tangibly affected the whole office. There is certainly no work being done while all ten of you spend fifteen minutes each talking about his egregiousness, and then another half an hour goes to waste since each of you has trouble concentrating while your thoughts keep returning to it. One of the employees who was in the break room at the time feels his chronic stress-related heartburn coming on, so he takes a sick day. As for that poor colleague of yours, she puts on a brave face, but her anger is so great that her three direct reports suffer the consequences as they feel her wrath well into the next week.

And you? You spend the first four hours of your day feeling guilty that you didn’t intervene. Eventually, though, you simply find yourself so worried that you’ll be your boss’ next victim, that you spend the next half of the day combing job sites for a new job. This isn’t atypical; in fact, a recent Gallup poll revealed that 50% of respondents at some point in their careers had left a job to get away from a horrible boss.

Employee turnover, sick leave, decreases in production: negative workplace behavior affects our employees. Directly, measurably, sometimes irreparably. One leader’s “bad morning” can have far-reaching consequences on a whole team, a whole division, a whole company, all as a result of these “small” workplace indignities…it’s difficult to argue that this isn’t a problem for the many companies who have leaders who are disengaged or worse, who are actively disrespectful. Your leaders determine your company’s success.

It’s important to be sure that our leaders are reflecting our company culture. That they are not just technically proficient, but positive influences as well. Teaching your leaders to lead respectfully and authentically is not “HR fluff.” It’s a real-world, strategic business decision that will drive employee engagement, morale, fulfillment and retention. After all, in this age of companies no longer offering pensions, suffering frequent mass layoffs, and demanding significantly more work from their employees, there’s a lot less inspiring employees to be loyal to their companies. No reason for them to stay, really, except if they feel that they are working for a company they respect, surrounded by leaders they admire, with a group of colleagues they genuinely like. Investing in your leaders’ people skills is a solid business decision that is vital to developing and maintaining a winning company culture. But it’s also simply human, simply caring.

-Lainie Mabbitt, VP People Excellence


Learn more about our People Excellence offering HERE

or, contact Lainie directly at [email protected]