It’ll Be the Death of Me

It started as an ordinary day for Bill. He arrived at his desk at work and checked his calendar. He had a seminar to present to his affiliate network later that day. He did what he usually did to drive additional attendance — he posted the seminar details on the bulletin board that was available online to the entire affiliate network. He looked at his email and began his day in earnest.

The time for the seminar came and went with no surprises. Bill presented the material, the affiliates expressed their appreciation for his time, and he logged off from the web conferencing software. It was then things got weird.

A colleague messaged Bill asking if he was okay after ‘what happened’. Bill paused for a minute. What happened? He saw no notices for meetings. There was no company-wide announcement from what he knew. He selected his colleague’s message and replied, “I’m fine, but what happened?”

It seems that someone had a rather strong reaction to the post that Bill had written about the class. It wasn’t the content of the post, but rather that the post went to one of the affiliates employees at all. Bill’s colleague wrote back to Bill, attaching a screen shot of a reply to Bill’s post. The reply stated, “Stop bothering me with these messages or I’ll run you over with my car!”

Bill paused for a bit and then smiled half a smile. It was the first time he had been threatened with death for wanting to improve people’s skills. Bill’s colleague, who was in charge of policing the bulletin board, told Bill she had erased the post, after taking a screen shot of it, and reported it to Bill’s manager as well as the colleague’s manager. Bill wasn’t terribly worried, but wanted to make sure he reported it as well just in case this was more than just an empty threat.

Bill’s manager was shocked at the death threat, and immediately reported it to both Human Resources and to the manager’s manager. For Bill’s part, he reported it to his local police, complete with any evidence he had, to ensure local law enforcement had a record of this. A few days later local law enforcement informed him that the person who threatened him was found and informed that if this person ever made threats against Bill again, he would be subject to prosecution. Bill was satisfied with the outcome, especially when he heard the affiliate had terminated the employee.

It was what didn’t happen that made Bill see his company in a new light. It was a small enough company where he knew the executives that made up the C-Suite. He knew each executive was informed of this situation. Yet not one executive bothered to contact him to offer sympathy or see if he was alright after this ordeal. Even the notification of the affiliate was handed off to a lower-level functionary of the company. For those who ran the company, it was an insignificant event that happened to an insignificant employee.

Except it wasn’t insignificant to Bill. His life had been threatened. Agreed, nobody was holding a knife to his throat. Still, nobody in the company could remember this ever happening to an employee. That didn’t matter. Bill didn’t seem to matter enough for anyone to check on his health and welfare, save for his manager. From that day forward, Bill didn’t act with the same sense of urgency or expediency regarding his work that he had previously. After all, if he wasn’t cared about, why should he care more than he needed to collect a paycheck?

If you speak HR, you will know about ‘non-monetary rewards’. That and other terms are used to describe rewarding an employee with something other than money. Studies show that these can help keep an employee engaged and productive. They cost the company little or nothing but can pay tremendous dividends. When not used, they can have a devastating effect on morale and productivity.

Bill’s executives could have taken under two minutes to message Bill asking how he was doing after the incident. The fact that they didn’t illustrated to Bill what was and wasn’t important to the C-Suite. Every time a salesperson onboarded another affiliate, celebrations were held. That was important. Bill wasn’t. He was insignificant. And in that instant, so was the company, at least to Bill.

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