How to keep your employees happy and lower your turnover costs

I have explained my job and studies to many people over the last few years. I basically sum it up that I want to help make employees happy at work so they come back the next day. Some people look at me a little cross-eyed like I’m some feelgood hippie that just walks around with sage smoking in an office to ward off evil spirits. Many many many more people’s eyes light up and say something to the effect of “man we could use someone like you.” To the owners and managers out there, listen to your employees that want someone like me to help you help them. It’s not about being a feelgood hippie type. It’s about doing some simple things to set yourself and employees up for success. Just think of all the things you have to do if they get unhappy and leave.

You spend money on the lost productivity of an unsatisfied employee or absent employee. You have to pay to advertise a new position availability if they leave or are fired. You have to train them, which again costs money and lost productivity from your trainer. Background checks and reference checks cost money. The time it takes to recruit and review resumes will have to come from somewhere (another loss in productivity and more money thrown away). Overtime to catch up on all that lost productivity. On top of the unanswered question of how many customers were alienated by an unhappy or overworked employee? These are all costs that can be minimized if you just do things right the first time.


1) Treat your employees like they deserve to be treated or like you would want to be treated. It’s the golden rule. Not hard. Let’s move on.

2) Train effectively. If you are going to take the time to train a new employee do it right the first time. Don’t waste your and their time as well as your money doing an ineffective job. By laying out the rules, regulations, expectations, and tools necessary for the new employee to feel comfortable and confident in their ability to do a good job for you. They will always have questions, that’s normal. But the more you can limit the 2nd guessing of themselves and of your company the better off they’ll be, the more confident in your decisions they’ll feel, and the more productive (ie more money they’ll make for you) they’ll be.

3) Be just and fair. I’ve written about this before ( but I can’t stress this enough. Everything else is derivative of this concept. Your training is derivative of justice. Promotions are derivative of justice. Bonuses are derivative of justice. Your feedback and employee reviews are derivative of justice. Etc etc. If you have an employee who feels they were passed over for a promotion because they were unjustly treated, the process for selection was bogus, or they weren’t even considered then guess what: They probably won’t work as hard or as long for you anymore. That isn’t to say you have to pander. People can handle being told “no” if it’s done fairly. If you need to take the time to sit down and discuss the decision process with them then it is well worth your time to do that. Which brings me to my last point…

4) Keep communication lines open. As I’ve told several managers at this point, there is no difference in what you say to your employees and your kids, just how you say it. Don’t condescend to your employee, but make sure they know exactly what it is that you want from them. Then give them the freedom to go do it (


Pressing the reset button: Getting a new fresh face to your business. What Peyton Manning and the Colts have in common with you.

I am a big advocate of promoting from within. The people you have hired and employed deserve the first shot at any promotion. They know the business, the culture, the mission of what you are trying to do, the politics of the office, etc. Not only that, they will probably resent being passed over for some “outsider” to the position they “deserve.” It goes hand in hand of procedural justice. If someone feels like they didn’t get treated fairly for this promotion then their work product will probably suffer.


However, in honor of my favorite football player, Peyton Manning, getting released from the Colts today, I want to explore the other side of that coin. Manning has been the face of the Colts for about 13 years or so. He has been the most important player they’ve ever had. Just as Babe Ruth built the old Yankee Stadium, Manning is responsible for the state of the art, billion dollar Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy. Letting him go is definitely a signal that change is imminent. Bringing in that new face, whether Andrew Luck to play QB, or a new employee to your business at home gives that air of freshness, a new start, and a different perspective to usher in that new era.


It isn’t always a good thing to continue having the same people working for you. Sometimes shaking up the perspective and bringing in a new dynamic and method is just what the doctor ordered. While I am sad about Manning going elsewhere, the excitement of the “new” will get people re-energized. When you have the opportunity present itself, look to see whether a fresh face to lead is what you need.

Rumor Mill: Don’t let the office tabloids spin out of control

Office gossip is going to happen no matter what you do as a boss. Cliques form, people chat, opinions are formed. This is all totally fine office procedure. However, when rumors about office politics and policies start swirling, then it can be a major problem. Getting ahead of the spin, controlling the information, and more importantly, limiting the misinformation is one of the most important and least accomplished roles of a manager that I have witnessed.

Aamodt (2007) compares informal organizational communication to the grapevine communication of the Civil War, when lines of distorted telegraphs were hung on lines resembling a grapevine.  The grapevine in today’s sense provides employees with organizational information, entertainment, and power (Aamodt, 2007).  Whether one person receives the information at a time or a few people pass the information to a few others and they pass it on to a few people, informal communication can spread quickly.

Research has shown that much of the information passed along the grapevine contains some truth to it (Aamodt, 2007).  However, some truth and all of the truth are two different things.  Hearing misinformation can greatly alter the perceptions of the listener (Aamodt, 2007).  Between misinformation and rumors through informal communication that change the organization’s functioning, it is wise for the employer to keep an ear in the grapevine.

I do not agree with completely regulating the grapevine, however.  It is important for communication to exist between team members (Aamodt, 2007).  Communication can increase efficiency and teamwork (Salanova, Agut, & Peiro, 2005).  Regulating communication then can hinder the performance of workgroups.  However, if a manager, whom Aamodt (2007) mentions are the main contributors to the grapevine, hears major inconsistencies that may alter the functioning of the organization it is important that the manager clears the air and enhances communication. Without doing so will create an environment of fear, resentment, and panic.

I worked with a manager who refused to do this. He was new and started making changes left and right at a business that was established and had always resisted making any changes in the past. People started panicking that their jobs might be the next changes to be made. I informed him of the panic that was rampant and poisoning the employees but he did not care. Morale went down, performance went down, and a lot of people left.

I have consulted with a few managers who have been gun shy about what they should and should not disseminate. My advice: TELL THEM ANYTHING THAT DIRECTLY AFFECT THEM!!!! I can’t emphasize this enough! Any changes and new policies and new procedures should be told to everyone. People fear change and if you can explain to them what and why these things are happening then they will feel as if they’re a part of it, will not jump to conclusions, will have a chance to express their concerns and frustrations, etc etc. There is no good reason I can think of or that I have read that would lead me to suggest not explaining new direction.


Aamodt, M. G. (2007) Industrial/organizational psychology. An applied approach. (5th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Salanova, M., Agut, S., & Peiro, J.M. (2005). Linking organizational resources and work engagement to employee performance and customer loyalty: The mediation of service climate. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(6), 1217-1227.

Goal Setting

I do a couple activities in my class on goal setting.  Having them write down their goals (4.0 GPA, graduating in 18 months, etc.), list the skills they have that will help them achieve that goal, what factors do they control and what factors are out of their control, what are the short-term goals that will lead to the long-term goal, what is the time frame, and what are some possible setbacks and how will they overcome them if/when they come up.

Goals need to be broken up into long and short-term.  Set your ultimate long-term goal (anything that is a year out or more) then essentially the short-term goals are the baby steps that get you there.  For my students, if the long-term goal is graduating in 18 months, the short-term goals may be to earn 3.5+ each quarter, be a mentor, have perfect attendance, etc..  The STGs help keep you focused on the bigger picture so you don’t get frustrated the the LTG is so far off you lose interest.

The really important parts that most people don’t do in goal setting is setting timeframes for achievement and being specific about what they want.  If you aren’t specific about your goal you really just have nothing.  For instance, if you just say you want to lose weight you haven’t done yourself any favors.  That doesn’t give you any motivation to lose weight or any direction from which to sit down and make a plan.  If you lose 1 lb, technically you’ve lost weight and you’re done.  If you say you want to lose 15 lbs. then you have direction, you are accountable to yourself, and you can make a plan for what and how to do it, and also think about the things that may get in your way.  And you can set up STGs to get you there to keep your interest, like maybe 1-2 lbs a week.  The time frame is also important so that you are accountable to some deadline.  If you want to lose 15 lbs, well you have all the time in the world to do it.  If you want to lose 15 lbs in 3 months, then you now have a complete goal and some pressure to make it happen.

Accountability is very important too.  I’m not the greatest at this, but I’m getting better.  However, make yourself accountable to someone else if you can.  Tell your friend that if you don’t achieve your STGs every week or 2 that you’ll clean their apartment or something like that.  Make them your personal trainer that’ll kick you in the butt to get you going if that’s what you need.

A really good tip I got from my dissertation chair is to set up a reward schedule (actually writing it down) for when you achieve all of your goals.  This helps to keep you motivated (although not rewarding yourself for not achieving the goals is the hard part).  So, for instance, you lose your 1-2 lbs/week, you treat yourself to a couple itunes downloads or something.  When you hit the halfway point, maybe a massage, and the ultimate goal is some new clothes.  Deciding the rewards before hand is important though.

This gets you to really think about what’s important to you as well as how you really need to go about getting to the finish line.  Just remember: be specific, set a timeline, be accountable, and set a plan for how you’ll get unstuck when you hit the wall.  I think most people have never really been shown how to set goals or even been correctly shown how to do it.  A quotation I show to my students during this lecture is “goals are dreams with deadlines.” i think that’s about right.






Social media

The internet is definitely a social tool.  You can communicate instantly with people all around the world, take classes from your home, find a date, shop, and many other things.  Fine (2007) shows how protests can be organized and messages conveyed via networking sites like Twitter and text messages.  These tools of technology were demonstrated to be used for social change.  They protested, people listened, society changed (Fine, 2007). We have recently seen how history was changed for the better using social media, both in Egypt and OWS, and the not so good in the London riots.

Voelcker (2006) points to several “social entrepreneurs” who have used technology to change the world.  Whether it is through a self-contained toilet using less water and chemicals, using food preservation techniques to limit waste, or offering free online courses, but technology can be used to better the world.  By using technology in this way it allows others to increase their opportunities to help as well. is a great way to use technology for social change.  Whatever the cause, this site brings different political issues to a discussion.  As of today there are public option debates, Afghanistan issues, and other health care issues (  The internet is a great way to get information instantly.  It is also a great way to get misinformation quickly.  It is important to be discerning about this medium of information because everyone does have access to it.


Fine, A. (2007). Networks online and on-land. Social Innovation Review. Winter, 2007. 36.

Voelcker, J. (2006). Creating social change: 10 Innovative Technologies. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Summer, 2006. 45-53.

Boys vs. girls: Are they really different?

The discrepancy of math scores between males and females has been found to be due to expectation bias of both the teacher and the parents.  If the teacher told the class that they expected the boys to do better than the girls, the scores reflected that.  If they told the class the test trended to score better for girls, then the scores reflected that as well.  Also, if they told the children there was no difference in scores and everyone should score about the same, then there were no significant differences between genders.  I believe the main problem is that we place expectation on children that they should not expect to succeed in certain areas even before they step foot in class.

Kelley and Blashfield (2009) state that psychology is no different than any other social construction because of the passion, pressures, and preconceptions that we bring into our studies to confound them.  Broverman, Broverman, Clarkson, Rosenkrantz, and Vogel (1970) found that double standards in clinician’s views of men and women were a glaring example of these biases, where the health care officials favored the men over the women.  This is very similar to the math scores of girls and boys.  If teachers expect girls to perform worse than boys on tests then they may be influencing those poor results by teaching the girls differently, worse, or not at all.

By changing the bias of the teachers and showing them that these things affect how their students score on tests perhaps we can stop this from happening.  We should be teaching teachers that girls are just as capable as boys are in terms of math ability.  It would help greatly to reduce the bias of teachers to expect girls to score high just as they do boys.  This is no different than a researcher showing bias in expectation from one group over another in their study.  It confounds the results and therefore does not elicit a solid study with credible results.

As a former math professor, I have seen this bias and what it can do to someone. Female students in their 20s and 30s who have never understood math until someone actually took the time to sit down and explain it to them: the rules, the logic, the tricks, etc. All of their hangups were based on teacher biases and the expectation that because they were girls they would have to work harder to figure things out. It’s not fair to the student or to our society that we are sabotaging people based on faulty information and expectations. Tell the student you expect them to succeed and they will.


Broverman, I. K., Broverman, D. M., Clarkson, F. E., Rosenkrantz, P. S., & Vogel, S. R. (1970). Sex role stereotypes and clinical judgments of mental health. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 34, 1–7.

Kelley, L.P., & Blashfield, R.K. (2009). An example of psychological science’s failure to self-correct. Review of General Psychology, 13(2), 122-129. DOI: 10.1037/a0015287

Empowerment and Delegation

I’ve been working with a local charter school on getting morale and cohesion improved. While working with the principal and office staff several things have been asked. Most significantly is how to empower and delegate tasks effectively. It seems this is a major problem in a lot of organizations and one that is easy to answer but perhaps more difficult to do. They do boil down to management styles and effective leadership.

Empowerment and delegation fit into the participative leadership picture in a few ways.  According to Sorrenson (2000) both of these variables are very important issues to consider in management.  Participative leaders are very successful at empowering their employees, making them feel proud to be a part of the organization and the direction they are going (Sorrenson, 2000).  There is also a high correlation in delegation in this culture where managers give an expectation to the employee and expect the employee to find their own path to get there.

Zhu, May, and Avolio (2004) also found that leadership style has an effect on empowerment.  Being empowered by a leader who improves self efficacy will lead to organizational commitment from the employee.  This should be incentive for managers to invest in empowering their employees to improve and participate in their own advancement.  By empowering the employee and delegating more responsibility to them, the employee will invest more effort into doing their job better.


Sorrenson, R. L. (2000). The contribution of leadership style and practices to family and business success. Family Business Review, 13(3), 183-200. DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-6248.2000.00183.x.

Zhu, W., May, D.R., & Avolio, B.J. (2004). The impact of ethical leadership behavior on employee outcomes: the roles of psychological empowerment and authenticity. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 11(1), 16-26. DOI: 10.1177/107179190401100104.