Keeping employees happy

Keeping employees happy is the best way to have happy customers.


Most people don’t quit a job because of the work they’re required to do; they often quit because they have a horrible boss. So, when a company experiences large employee turnover, it’s time to examine the quality of its management.

Over the years, I’ve held many different positions in a large variety of businesses. I quit one job after only two hours when I saw how disrespectfully the human resource manager treated some foreign employees during the orientation session. Since I was hired to work in his department, I decided I wouldn’t last long under someone who had little respect for others.

I’ve also quit jobs because the manager or owner was unethical or an extreme micro-manager who didn’t trust her very capable employees to do anything unless she was looking over their shoulders.

I’ve had jobs in customer service and human resources where I was responsible for recruiting, hiring, training, supervising and firing employees. Strangely, when I was hired for those positions, nobody asked me if I knew how to be a manager or even gave me tips on how to be a good one. So what I did was try to avoid the mistakes of my former managers, copy the practices of the excellent ones and research best management practices.

I’m not sure why so many business owners and managers don’t know, or attempt to learn, the basics of managing employees to get the best results for their companies, clients and employees. (Not one of which is more important than the others.) Their own experiences as they climbed the ladder should have clued them in to methods that ensure employee loyalty, growth and productivity. A quick Google search for “traits of good management techniques” should give them the basics they can use in their jobs.

Based on my experiences and what I’ve learned by reading, here are some things I’ve discovered about being a good leader:

Let employees know what’s going on: Along with department managers, include an employee representative at staff meetings who will then relay important information to all employees. Inform employees of company plans and goals using newsletters and regular staff meetings. Make sure all shift supervisors use the same rules. Don’t spring surprises on employees unless they’re happy ones.

Help them succeed: Give them the tools, time, training and information they need to excel. Ask them if they need something that would help them do a better job. Be available for questions, but don’t hover. Tell them what your expectations are for their jobs and praise them when they do well.

Make them a part of the organization’s success: Ask them for suggestions about how to make the company a better organization for employees as well as customers. Encourage them to share creative ideas and give them credit for good ones. Reward outstanding service and attendance with certificates, paid time-off, a bonus or other tangible rewards. Encourage teamwork. Recognize and utilize their individual talents.

Know your employees: At least once a week, spend time walking around asking questions, listening to and learning from them. Learn their names and what their duties, responsibilities and needs are. Many managers will be surprised at what they learn.

As for what not to do, never reprimand or criticize anyone in front of others. Always counsel one-on-one, behind closed doors. This is the time to tell them, in detail, what’s expected. Don’t micromanage. If they’ve been trained and informed on company policy and procedures, then trust them to do their jobs and encourage questions if they’re unsure of something. Never use profanity or demeaning language or harass them in any way. Never lie to them or a customer. And don’t ask them to do something that’s unethical, unfair, bigoted or cruel.

Naturally, there will be employees who aren’t a good fit or who are consistently late, undependable or incompetent. But, before firing them, tell them what they need to do and give them a chance to improve. Offer counseling and mentoring for a stated amount of time.

Before firing anyone, know the laws that cover discrimination of all types to avoid legal repercussions. Unless they’ve committed a criminal act, don’t fire anyone without written and thorough documentation of their inability or unwillingness to perform their jobs.

Too often business owners are much more concerned about customers than they are about their employees. Happy employees are much more valuable to the company than unhappy ones.

Employees who are treated fairly will guarantee excellent quality, improved productivity and timely delivery of goods and services. That means happy customers, lower turnover, more sales, higher company profits and free word-of-mouth advertising.

When employees love their jobs, everybody wins.

Pat Nash has lived in the Baraboo area, off and on, for more than 30 years. Contact her at