Saturday, March 13, 2010

Social norms and happy employees

I came accross the following from from Jay Golz's New York Times blog:

About 10 years ago I was having my annual holiday party, and my niece had come with her newly minted M.B.A. boyfriend. As he looked around the room, he noted that my employees seemed happy. I told him that I thought they were.

Then, figuring I would take his new degree for a test drive, I asked him how he thought I did that. “I’m sure you treat them well,” he replied.

“That’s half of it,” I said. “Do you know what the other half is?”

He didn’t have the answer, and neither have the many other people that I have told this story. So what is the answer? I fired the unhappy people. People usually laugh at this point. I wish I were kidding.

In my experience, it is generally unhappy employees who say things like "But what happens to our business model if home prices go down?" or "Doesn't that look kinda like an iceberg?" Putting that aside, though, this is another example of the principle discussed in the last post -- it's easy to get the norms you want if you can decide who goes in the group.

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