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Doing the Right Thing in an Irrational Economy

July 16th, 2016

How do we reflect and encourage a commitment to “do the right thing” despite daily pressures make regaining or sustaining profitability our top priority?

A leader can start by admitting mistakes and encouraging other to do the same. Hiding findings or blaming others very often comes from a very natural need to protect ourselves from harm. The best companies understand this and work hard to foster open communication and avoid the tendency to make issues more complex than they are. Very often all it takes is a “gut check.” Put more simply: doing good, feels good.

Sometimes a commitment to values comes at a high short-term cost (admitting mistakes and fixing them is almost never without cost to the client or stakeholders.) But living by a set of values that focus on doing good by employees and customers creates a stronger company over the long haul.

Developing–and living with–a set of principles that guide decision making throughout an organization is no simple task. It involves the kind of soul-searching that not all people are prepared to engage in, especially in difficult economic times.

The value of doing good
I feel fortunate to be in a business where we can do well by doing good. As a staffing firm, the work we do impacts the lives of the people we touch in a powerful way. We must be ever vigilant and mindful of this impact. What impact do you have on the lives of others? I suspect it’s more than you realize. If you are a manager, do your employees understand your values and commitment to doing the right thing? As an employee, do you feel empowered to do what’s right, and admit mistakes along the way? Or is your first thought about how to mitigate the cost before understanding the impact on the lives of others?

Balancing work and life

“Quality of life” issues, such as balancing one’s work and personal lives, are still thorny issues at many firms. Thirty years ago, if you’d talked about these issues, management would question your commitment, or even your sanity. But most people are trying to balance their business lives with their personal lives, their professional needs with their health, social, and spiritual needs.

In these difficult times, there is a lot of pressure to work harder and longer, for the very real fear of losing ones job. Good business leaders know, however, that squeezing as much out of workers as possible, may increase productivity for the short-term, but is not sustainable for the long-term. Long-term profitability is sustained when employees are motivated and committed out of a sense of loyalty.

Managing for the short term as well as the long
As much as leaders understand that we must manage for the long term and keep employees happy, we must be realists and manage for the short term, as well–and that’s tough in the current economic environment. Just as people must manage their personal and work responsibilities, so, too, must companies balance their priorities –all companies must manage for the short term to some degree. We all need to understand the tradeoffs.

Of course, we would all love to work for a company that only manages for the long term, but that is not a reality today. Cash reserves have dwindled, and funding sources have tightened or disappeared altogether. Many of us are simply trying to keep the wolves at bay, and must ask more of ourselves, our colleagues and our employees. But we must not let our fears cause us to lose sight of our values and our commitments to do the right thing!

Shannon Erdell is the President of TLC Staffing and author of “Temporary Sanity: Managing Today’s Flexible Workforce”, SOCAA Publishing 1995. Headquartered in San Diego, with offices in Southern California and North Carolina, TLC Staffing is a 24 year old, multi-disciplined temporary and permanent placement firm. Their specialty divisions include: Business Services, Accounting and Finance, Legal, Human Resources, Engineering and IT. www.tlcstaffing.com 858-569-6260

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