For research into writing a new book about organizational culture, I asked several of my staff why they liked where they work. Their responses were positive, and ranged from liking the people they work with to appreciating that leadership involves employees in decision making. The most surprising response?
“I like that I’m not judged for when I go to the bathroom.”
After some laughter, I asked for a bit more context to this response. The employee explained that he recently heard of someone who worked in an organization that limited the time and frequency of when employees go to the bathroom.
To him, this type of micro-management showed a great distrust by management of their employees. In his view, such authoritarian ways would not make a great place to work. He went on to explain that when he compares this type of environment to the one he’s currently in where he gets to organize and make decisions about day and workflow – chief among them, when to go to the bathroom – he is grateful for his workplace.
When I thought more closely about his response, I realized at the heart of what he values about his workplace is trust and autonomy.
First, he values that leadership trusts him. When employees feel that their leaders trust them, they are more likely to trust their leaders. And when people trust you, even in uncertainty, they will be influenced by your leadership. Leaders can have a great strategy and exciting vision, but if employees don’t trust you, leading effectively is hard to do.
Second, he values autonomy. When employees have autonomy, they are more satisfied and more engaged at work, which among other things leads to lower staff turnover. As leaders, instead of focusing on the minute details (like timing of bathroom breaks), we need to direct our focus to broader organizational concerns, and give employees the freedom to figure out their day to-to-day tasks.
We always need to keep the well-used saying in mind: “Hire good people and leave them alone.”
While he gave a humorous reason in response to my question of why he likes where he works, my employee was really saying, “I like where I work because my leaders trust me, and I like that I have freedom and autonomy to structure my workday.”
ACHIEVE is conducting a study for a book we are working on and we would love to hear your input.