Be nice. A little engagement goes a long way.

Be nice. A little engagement goes a long way.

Here are two truths: First, we tend to like people who show an interest in us and what we think. Second, we all enjoy receiving praise and recognition.

Neither of these simple interpersonal exchanges costs a nickel yet they can be the best investment you make with your employees or co-workers.

According to one study, employers and supervisors who made it a point to genuinely recognize people’s work on a daily basis saw productivity rise by 37%. The value of being nice and genuinely interested in the lives of co-workers makes for a stronger team, better customer service and fewer friction costs.

These were observations recently shared by nationally recognized hospitality consultant Stephen Barth ( at the annual meeting of the Maine Innkeepers Association. A leading authority in law for the hospitality industry, Barth has crafted a unique perspective on the employer-employee relationship through the lens of litigation and organizational leadership.

Team play makes for a better customer experience and a profitable outcome. For example, a hotel guest may have nothing but outstanding service from arrival (bell hop) and check-in (clerk) to a round of golf (starter) and dining (waitress), but a glob of hair found in the bathtub drain (maid) becomes the factor on which the guest may dwell. If one member of the team fails to perform, the team fails in its service objective. Treating every member of the team as an equally important member makes your chances for success just that much greater.

Failure to do so may result in more turnover and, worse, threats of litigation.

People’s feelings matter which makes hiring and management such a challenge. When hiring, you want to have people with a good attitude and an outward focus. You can generally train people to do tasks but it is much harder to train people to have a positive attitude. Barth said he’d take the candidate with a good attitude and low skills over a highly skilled but gloomy competitor.

Perhaps most important is demonstrated leadership by owners and supervisors who are consistently outwardly focused and supportive. “Good job!”, “How’s your daughter doing?”, “Great idea! Let’s see what we can do.” That is the nutrient that grows a positive culture.

Barth also cited a study of more than 200,000 employees about what employees need in order to be engaged, productive and committed. The vast majority said they wanted their employers to

  • Give clear and consistent direction
  • Clearly communicate
  • Demonstrate trust
  • Hold employees accountable

The expectation is that employees want to be treated with respect and have their co-workers as committed as themselves to the success of the organization.

In addition to what should be common sense behaviors that benefit an organization, employers also are subject to a wide array of laws:

  • Fair Labor Standards Act
  • Equal Pay Act
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act
  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act

And then there are myriad state and local statutes.

How do you protect your business and get better at what you do? It is essential to have solid Employment Practices Liability insurance in place. This coverage will help defend you and your organization against allegations of wrong-doing. More to the point, a review of EPLI coverage will provide guidance to prevent such allegations from occurring and allow the organization to focus on sound hiring practices and the success of the organization’s objectives.

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