World Wars and Business
In the early part of the 20th century, the United States and the world endured two world wars. The U.S. also dealt with other wars such as Vietnam, Korea, the Gulf War, the Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan. As a result, there were many individuals who were drafted and spent time in the army under military command and military rules. Serving for your country is a life and death situation. As such, obedience is important. Morale is important. Bravery and courage was vital. Physical strength was a must.
Those that didn’t have those attributes would soon learn them on the battlefield or die trying to find them. There were individuals who were asked to take controls of planes and fly them into enemy territory after seeing fellow friends planes never return. Many platoons first started our making fun of each other and pitting themselves against one other to get a higher position but on the battlefield and through experience the platoons ended up wielding a tight brotherhood and bond that would last the rest of their lives.
When men returned from war, they went back to work. Their point of view which came from the military perspective and their business management styles were incorporated into corporations. In the earlier part of the 20th century, there were more men in business management positions and there were more men under those business managers. As a result, the same expectations in war were seen in the workplace.
Obedience was important. Thick skin was important. A bosses were at liberty to yell and scream at a worker that was not performing to expectations. Bosses were viewed in the same eyes as a military commander. They were to be tough, show no mercy with little tolerance for anything else but perfection.
When one gets angry and raises his voice people listen. People react. No one wants to deal with an angry person. The only way to keep the boss from being angry is doing what he says. This business management style is prevalent throughout many areas where the public eye gets to see how a boss is in action, most especially in sports with a coach and their players and has been upheld as an acceptable business model throughout the 20th century.
Harvard Medical School and the University of Los Angeles teamed up and did a survey of 3,000 american workers in Los Angeles. The study was conducted in 2015. The study found that 55% of american workers found their job unpleasant and potentially hazardous. Seventy-five percent said that a quarter of their work was intensive, repetitive physical labor. Twenty percent say they face work under hostile situations, including sexual harassment. Those who do not have a college education face the toughest conditions.
The World War theory is just a factor as to why work places are so hostile. However, the fact of hostility in the workplace is a reality. Should it be a reality? Those that work full-time spend the majority of their awake hours at work. The workplace is essentially a second family to individuals. How one is treated and the atmosphere in the workplace will have an effect on all workers there. If the atmosphere is stressful, the employees will bear that stress whether they are home or at work. If it is hostile, the employees will bear that hostility.
There have been many businesses that have understood the importance of a healthy business atmosphere. I worked for Expedia for a while in Bellevue, Washington. The dress code there was casual. They had free beverages for employees. They way they painted the offices made it feel like you were at a daycare center. They had a foosball table where some buddies and I went played for our 10 minute breaks.
We still had quotas to fill and we our progress and effectiveness was still being monitored but the atmosphere helped everyone relax a little more which in turn brought down the stress levels.
Pete Carroll, the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks has taken the same kind of approach to his coaching style which he teaches in his book “Win Forever.” Most coaches are still like military commanders. However, Pete Carroll implemented a method of management as a head coach at the University of Southern California where his main goal was to keep his goals simple, keep things competitive, but ensured that the players had fun while they worked toward their goals. Instead of football being a task, he wanted to make sure that everyone showed-up looked forward to coming back.
Instead of looking at the flaws of a player, Pete Carroll would try and focus on their strengths and put them in a position where they could play to their strengths. His goal was to teach and build-up what he saw instead of dismiss and put on the bench when a mistake was made.
This in turn makes an atmosphere of comradery. Instead of one cowering with fear of making a mistake, they move forward with confidence knowing that their coach is out there to help everyone succeed instead of weeding out those that can’t. Pete Carroll tries to make sure that the player’s spirits are high and not low. Everyday when the players are stretching, he will go out and make an effort to talk to all the players and build them up. He knows that if they are built up mentally they will perform better on the field.
He brings singers and former star players to teach them their side of things and to rub shoulders with them. He holds competitions with players such as the three-point shoot-out. Pete Carroll knows the importance of being positive and trying to lift those around him. There are loud speakers with music blasting during practice. At one point during summer camp last year a fight broke-out between two players and right after the fight ended the lyrics “Because I’m happy” from Pharrell Williams started playing. Pete Carroll knows that toward the end of a close game it all comes down to who is prepared mentally and focused enough to take that on.
Pete Carroll taught this method to Steve Kerr, the coach for the Golden State Warriors. The Golden State Warriors now implement the same mentality and methods into their practices. The Golden State Warriors have fun and enjoy their practices. Steve Kerr competes as well. Players love and want to play for Pete Carroll. Players love and want to play for Steve Kerr. As a result, they attract the best players to their teams. Their teams excel. Their teams compete. Players from other teams take pay-cuts to play for them.
The work atmosphere is vital. Work is not a life and death situation like a war. It is just life and with life as the famous quotes goes, “don’t take it too seriously because nobody gets out alive anyway.” The business atmosphere is people trying to make ends meet and get through in this world. As an employment attorney, I get to take a peek into many different companies and how they run things. Sadly, I typically get called to take a peek when things get bad, someone gets injured and laws are broken.
These can all be avoided by implementing an effective business management method that doesn’t overlook the employee. The employee is the one who makes the business thrive. They are the ones that bring in the money, so it is best not to bite the moneymaker. They are vital organs to a healthy business and they should not be discounted or overlooked. If a business has an effective plan that aims to ensure that the employees are healthy, then the business will stay lubricated and move forward.
There are some businesses that tend to think that such an investment is not worthwhile. Their Human Resources department is inadequate or non-existent or bullied or persuaded to not focus on employees. Their employee handbooks are also non-existent or bare, one-sided and looks more like a war plan than an employee plan. Sexual harassment, racial, hostile claims are a mere nuisance instead of a concern.
If businesses can find a way to curtail the gossip, the snarky remarks, the anger, the hostility, the pride, the arrogance, the short-temperedness, the lack of patience, then they will start to thrive. The employees will be happy. The best employees will want to work for them, the employees will want to stay. They will avoid expensive lawsuits. And they won’t have an employee attorney sitting in their office telling them how to do their job.
Utah is an “at-will” state meaning that employers can typically dismiss an employee without any reason. The problem is that there are caveats to this rule that can get employers in a lot of trouble if they don’t fully understand the rule. The best rule of thumb is to live above this law and understand that people make mistakes, that some people don’t see eye-to-eye and have their different viewpoints and opinions.
Dismissing employees left and right for whatever reason is counterintuitive to building a healthy business. It might be even best to help the angry or short-tempered employee at first instead of letting him go at the first complaint. Back to the Seahawks, Pete Carroll doesn’t wince when it comes to taking on players that tend to have “outside” or “lockeroom” issues. He took on Marshawn Lynch which if you know how he works, is a handful. He takes players as they are and builds on that.
The employee interview should be important for businesses and they should understand that after the interview, they made the investment on this person, they decided to roll the dice on them and therefore should build this person up and not run at the first sign of danger.
The key is healthy, positive, sustaining atmosphere for employees. Employers and employees do not have equal bargaining power for rights especially in Utah, but if employers understand this and tailor to the needs of the employees instead of stripping them down to the bare minimum, life and business will be a lot easier.
In the end, employees matter without them the business goes nowhere. Their mental well-being matters. Their growth matters. At-will should not be an excuse for a business employer to leave their manners at home, on a church pew, or on mom’s front porch. They are there for a reason. They are taught in business school for a reason and should be implemented in sincerity with concern for others and not as fake counterfeits.
It seems like American businesses lay on the side of fake counterfeits. Generally, in our society, will still have that "thick skin" attitude. When someone asks how you are doing, the answer must always be positive. There must always be a smile. Their must always be energy. This is what employers look for when they hiring someone. The job placement always says, "looking for enthusiastic, outgoing, individual." If you can fake it in the interview or in the job thereafter, you get the job and they teach you how to fake it in career placement centers.
If a business can instead "take people as they find them" because of an atmosphere already implemented based on genuine care, trust and understanding where employees feel free to open up and talk about what is really going on inside and are free to be themselves, then the characteristics businesses seek in their job description will ultimately come out in the end, instead of slowly being sucked-out of the employee after the interview because of the suffocating atmosphere in which they were placed.
Reach out to our Utah employment law firm and attorney for a further consultation on your legal issues today.