Did you ever plan a fun outing for staff and feel like it was not appreciated? I have. Maybe some staff members were a no show at your event. Maybe some were more concerned if they would be paid their usual wages. Maybe they attended, but seemed less than enthusiastic. With years of experience in managing a large staff and trying to host team building events, I’ve learned some basic principles that may help you.
Employers are from Mars, Employees are from Venus
Like the classic book on relationships between men and women, employers and employees are just wired differently. They have different goals, needs and values. That can still work out just fine, but it is helpful if you understand the other group.
Quite often, when there are fundamental differences that lead to conflict between practice owners and employees, I urge owners to give in if at all possible. Owners often cry, “But why? That’s not fair!” But my response is that employers should give in because it is smart to do so. It is in their best interest to absorb some minor cost, accept some inconvenience or put aside some hurt feelings.
Believe me, I know owners have feelings and I know it can seem like employees don’t realize that, but the relationship is not personal and I don’t think it should be personal. It is not the employee and you; it is an employee and a company. Accept that you are the company and you have many more resources and advantages than the employee. Looking at a situation this way helps to spare your personal feelings. Great leaders don’t let petty issues bother them. They rise above them. They become the bigger person.
As usual, I like to move from the theoretical to real-world application, so I’ll provide some general tips for team building or office social events. I admit, however, that there are many different types of events and variables that surround them, so there may not be a single right way to handle them. The practice owner has the right to make policies around these events, but the best decisions will be those that build the organizational culture of the practice. That is the whole point of doing them.
Generally, I recommend that you see issues from the employee’s point of view and don’t expect everyone to want to do what you want to do. Not everyone wants a mani-pedi. Some people don’t like massages. Someone may not want to attend an event where most people will have a spouse or significant other with them. You may control what happens during work hours, but events outside the office enter into the employee’s personal life and that makes it different.
Lower your expectations. You can’t predict what people like and don’t like. Understand the employee mentality and don’t be offended it by it.
Here are a few general tips to consider that may prevent you from being caught off guard by employee requests or complaints:
• Don’t require participation if an event is outside of work. Make it clear to employees that attendance is optional. Having people at an event who don’t want to be there is inviting trouble.
• Don’t cut anyone’s pay in any way. Closing the office for a fun outing should not reduce an employee’s take home pay. Consider paying usual wages or leave the office open with a skeleton crew.
• If a social event is outside of office hours and attendance is not required, there is no need to pay wages.
• If an event can be construed as work-related, like attending an educational course, then wages should be paid. Rather than track actual hours at an event, just decide if the pay will be for a full day or half day (8 hours or 4 hours).
• Don’t play favorites; treat all employees fairly.
• Try to prevent misunderstandings by describing expectations for the event in advance. Decide if guests of employees are invited (or not).
• Post a sign-up sheet well in advance if you have more than a few employees. This is a good way to communicate the rules of the event.