A 7th grader asked Dr. Bill Bennett, the former Secretary of Education, “How can you tell a good country from a bad one?”
Bennett replied, “I apply the Gate Test. When the gates of a country are open, watch which way the people run. Do they run into the country or out of the country?”
It was an excellent question that got an excellent response.
And I think the same question could be applied to your organization. If your people were exposed to other job opportunities and if all other things were equal, would they stay with you or would they leave you?
The answer will tell you if you’ve got a positive or negative work environment. And it’s no small matter because…
► 1. Negative work environments cost you big time.
After all, negative work environments drive your best people away.
And it costs 1½ to 2 times a person’s yearly salary to replace an employee and get a new person up to speed. Because you have to pay for such obvious things as advertising, recruitment, background checks, interviews, orientation, and training when good people flee your “gates.”
You also have some less-obvious costs in the loss of intellectual capital when an experienced person leaves and mistakes are made by the new inexperienced person. There’s the disruption of teamwork and a variety of service problems — all of which can lead to lost customers.
Quite simply, you can’t afford a negative work environment.
The good news is you’re not stuck. .
► 2. You can build a more positive work environment.
I know. I do that all the time in organizations where I speak live or virtually.
In fact, David G. Lewis wrote to tell me: “My wife came home this evening and couldn’t wait to tell me about your Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program. She thought you were AWESOME and gave you fives all across the board. Now you’d have to know my wife to know that fives all across the board means that next to the 2nd coming of Christ you’re the next best thing! Heck she doesn’t even give me fives across the board.”
F.Y.I. My next and last Journey program will be November 12-13, 2020 in St. Louis. We have fewer than ten seats remaining. To join me, go to www.attendthejourney.com and register now.
Of course, you’re wondering where your workplace falls on the negative to positive scale.
I tell my clients to start with my “Environmental Burnout Premise.” It says that people are not so much burned out on their jobs as they are burned out on the atmosphere in which they have to do their jobs.
To check out the environment or atmosphere in your workplace, ask yourself the following questions.
► 3. Do the people at work feel more like Prisoners or Pioneers?
John Borchert, the general manager for the Army Corp/Prison Blues Clothing Line in Oregon, says, “Prisoners learn early that the way to survive on the inside is to keep a low profile and follow orders. Sadly, that’s the same lesson that workers in most businesses learn.”
In positive work environments, the workers do more than simply “get by” or “survive.” They’re pioneers. They’re thinking of new and better ways to do their jobs or serve their customers. They’re excited and energized and their enthusiasm touches everyone around them.
► 4. Are the people at work more Upbeat or Downcast?
As I speak in various organizations, I can see that lots of people don’t like their jobs. And I hear about the whining, complaining, and backbiting that those people engage in. They’re obviously Downcast.
What about the folks around you? Are they more Upbeat or Downcast? Do you see more smiles or frowns? It’s a pretty good indicator of your work environment.
And what about you? What are people going to say at your funeral? Are they going to say, “He hated every day of work and he made sure everyone around him hated their work as well?”
When I listen to Downcast people, they talk about their pay, their hours, their boss, or any number of challenging scenarios.
But I tell them they have a choice. They can focus on the negatives or they can focus on the positives — because there are no perfect jobs.
Of course, when I talk that way, Downcast people think I’m too cheerful. They think I’m being unrealistic. But I like the way Daniel L. Reardon puts it. He says, “In the long run, the pessimist ‘may’ be proved right, but the optimist has a better time on the trip.”
► 5. Does your organization put a greater emphasis on Sick Days or Well Days?
As you well know, only 50% of those who call in sick are actually sick — physically sick. They’re just sick of work.
Part of the problem is due to the fact that many organizations reward sickness while they punish health.
I’m NOT suggesting that companies remove sick-day pay. Not at all.
I’m simply saying that it makes sense to put a greater emphasis on wellness. An organization could reward people for perfect attendance over a period of time. They could put all the winners’ names into a drawing for a bigger prize. It would make things a bit fairer for those people who never get sick and never get to use their sick days.
Or an organization could give their employees the privilege of using a “sick day” as a “call-in-well day.” The employee could call in and say, “I’d love to come to work today, but I’m feeling so mighty good that I’m calling in well. I won’t be there, but I’ll see you tomorrow, brighter and fresher than ever.”
Final Thought: Before you complain too much about this country, or your organization, or your job, apply the Gate Test. When all the barriers are removed, watch which way the people run.