Employees Are People

Hand holding a white mug with words, "You are doing a great job."

Employees Are People

It’s not National Employee Day or anything, I’m just compelled to write about employees today because I’ve had the same conversation three times in the last few days and I need to shout about something.

Treat 👏  Your 👏  Employees 👏  Like 👏  People 👏

Employees are not horses to be broken or dogs to be trained. (Don’t get me started on animal rights either, buddy.) Employees are Actual Human Beings. They have bad days. They have good days. They will undoubtedly make mistakes. They have lives outside of work. They have well-being that needs attention. But if you find that you’ve got somebody who is reliable, dedicated, and talented, hold ON to them. Treat them like gold. They ARE gold. And if you’ve got an employee who’s a keeper, trust me — they have other options and won’t put up with your BS!

I’ve had some bosses that were stinkers. I am even still now afraid to tell you any of the details. Nobody should have to live that way. Employees are people.

And if you want those people to work harder for you, build them up! Show them you care about the people-ness of them, and not just what they can do for you! Thank them for spending their life’s limited precious hours on YOUR thing instead of THEIR thing. Sure, you thank them with a paycheck. But money only goes so far. They give their time and talent to your business. And if that’s not something you’re insanely grateful for, either they’re not the right fit for the company and it’s time for you to level with them and cut them loose so they can find something that IS the perfect fit instead of you both being unhappy, OR you’re not in the right mindset and really should be thanking them profusely.

Last night I was talking to somebody very close to me who was nervous about her yearly review. I shared this story:

When our Caitlin was here for a year, we thought we should do a review. Because that’s what you do when you’re a company. You have a review.

Since Caitlin’s our Operations person and is helping us become more of a real actual company instead of just Kate-does-all-the-things, she drafted the review form based on some templates she found.

I looked at the review form where you could give a certain number of stars or points for each item, things like attendance, initiative, and work quality, and I thought, “This is awful!” I have to grade this person who I am so grateful for and find things to say to her about her work performance that will just make her feel rotten? What is the POINT of this?

If it’s not working out, just level with them. Treat them with respect and let them loose so they can find something they’re better suited for. And if they need to change something about their work life, tell them that up front. Don’t play games.

And listen, I’m all in favor of a scheduled check-in. But employees are people. We aren’t about humiliation and flogging here at Advokate. Humiliation and flogging is not okay. Don’t we teach our kids not to hit? Not to say mean things? Not to hurt people’s feelings just for kicks?

You can say what’s truthful but there’s a way to say things without making someone feel absolutely horrible. A way to say it that won’t embarrass them but will motivate them. Come on.

So I rewrote the questions into a “Here’s what you’re doing so good at, and here’s what we can work on doing even better” type of a format. I changed it from being a review to being a check-in. And I gave Caitlin items on the form to fill out where she could evaluate ME too! Because I want to be the best boss ever! I want her to be happy so she sticks around because she is good for Advokate! I want Advokate to be good for her, too. And I want her to know how VERY much I appreciate and treasure her talents and decision to be part of the Advokate team! Because she is awesome! And so is our newest hire, Angie. And Cory the VP, too. I feel so incredibly lucky that we have this team of the best ever people who so totally know what they’re doing, who care about what they do, and put their INCREDIBLE talents to work for Advokate’s clients. The Advokate team is made up of the BEST EVER people and I WANT THEM TO KNOW THAT ALL THE TIME.

The items on the evaluation form include, “Things Advokate Likes About Employee” and “Constructive Criticism/Areas of Improvement” as well as Goals/Changes/Expectations. I think a review is a chance to air out anything that needs work and to make sure the employee knows just how much you appreciate what they do for the company.

This person who was nervous about her yearly review was let go today after many years at the company. More than ten.

It hit home.

Similar things have happened to me and other people in my family. You pour your whole being, your whole self, into your work, and that’s when it gets dangerous. All the eggs in one basket. And it’s not even your basket. 

Listen. I don’t want all of ANYONE’s eggs. I don’t think any employer should expect to have all the eggs. Because that’s not looking out for a fellow human being. It’s selfish and it’s not right. And nobody else is ever going to care about your company as much as you do. And that’s okay. And if they do, then you’d best suggest they get some other baskets instead of just throwing the basket. Caitlin has free reign and Advokate’s support and encouragement to make her own films. Angie has free reign and Advokate’s support and encouragement to sell her designs on Etsy and make a go of her artist career. There’s more to life than work.

I want to help Advokate’s clients and community and I will give them my all. You’ve got incredible talent here at Advokate to tap into. And that talent comes from actual real people who have dogs and kitties and kiddos, just like you. We work hard, and we care about one another.

Anyway. I just needed to rant.

And if anyone just threw your basket, you should start a business!

Call me. I’ll help.

(P.S. The pictured mug may or may be not something all Advokate employees have. Angie’s about to get hers because I just found one next door at Rude Betty!)


Kate Austin-Avon

Kate E. Austin is known for her creative advocacy. She is a regular speaker on branding and social media with educational institutions and Chambers of Commerce. She owns and operates Advokate, LLC. Currently she serves on the boards of the Glens Falls Business Improvement District, is on the World Awareness Children’s Museum’s Advisory Council, and is involved in the Jackson Heights PTA. Originally from Killington, Vermont, she studied art at Hartwick College and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Art from Empire State College. She is a mother of three.