If you want to know what employees want, ask them.
That’s one of our “rules of thumb” at NGC, which we’ve learned from over 10 years of surveying thousands of employees.
But what happens when employees vote for perks that counter their wellness or productivity?
Case in point: In a previous life, I worked briefly as a data entry clerk for a freight auditing company. I had no car, and their office was just blocks from my apartment. It seemed like a good fit.
I nailed the interview and felt relieved, until my future boss informed me of a unique office policy: Everyone smokes.
That is, everyone smokes in the office, at all times.
Apparently, all 7-8 employees were smokers, so they instituted a policy that you could smoke at your desk while working.
Everyone loved it.
To provide some context, this was not the 1960s, where Mad Men smoking offices were the rule rather than the exception. This was 2001!
When I told them I didn’t smoke, they asked if I’d have a problem with the policy. I was desperate enough to smile and say, “Nope,” while I cringed inside and wondered what effects this would have on my bright pink lungs.
To assuage any ideas I had about arguing this policy, they propped an air purifier next to my workstation, while my office mates puffed away around me. It was clearly more to make a point than to serve any real function. I would’ve been better off wearing a gas mask.
So, what’s the lesson? I stand behind our rule of thumb. Great managers should ask employees what they want. But how do great managers prepare for those unexpected, out-of-left-field responses? If nothing else, it’s important to know your limits, and always have a Plan B.
But please, don’t make “air purifiers” your Plan B. It’s like putting a band-aid on a bullet hole.
To all the managers out there, how would you respond if your employees voted for an “all-smoking” policy, or some other unexpected “perk”? Share your stories in the “Comments” section below.