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OM in the News: Keeping Your Human Resources Happy

August 29, 2013

southwestIn Chapter 10, “Human Resources, Job Design, and Work Measurement,” we hold out Southwest Airlines as a model of workplace civility. The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 28, 2013), in this article on how hostile work environments cost companies in productivity and creativity, agrees. The Journal writes that the warm-and-fuzzy corporate culture of Southwest includes an entire department devoted to sending employees supportive notes when a family member is ill or congratulations when they have a baby. “We have people here who remember our birthdays when our family members don’t,” says one VP.

But this is rare. Some 96% of workers say they have experienced uncivil behavior and 98% have witnessed it, according to a Georgetown U. study.  A separate recent study showed that 50% of workers felt they were treated rudely at least once a week. Victims of incivility dial back their work effort and are more likely to lash out. Uncivil behavior can “spread like a virus across teams,” adds a professor at Antioch. And the costs can be steep: Cisco Systems estimates the cost of incivility in its organization at $8.3 million annually. That figure takes into account turnover, employees’ weakened commitment to the company and work time that was lost to worrying about future bad behavior.

At the National Security Agency, managers encourage workers to pay someone a compliment or show up early for a meeting. NSA employees who do good deeds are honored as “civility stars,” rewarded with plaques. Even Dish Network, which topped website 24/7 Wall St.’s list of “the worst companies to work for,”  is trying to take a kinder, gentler approach. That has meant summertime concerts and a softened stance toward the company’s attendance policy.  “I wanted it to be a more fun place to work,” says Dish’s CEO. “I think people have a responsibility to treat everybody else the way they want to be treated.”

Some organizations are even setting rules to foster friendliness. At Louisiana’s Ochsner Health System, employees are required to follow the “10/5 rule,” making eye contact with anyone within 10 feet and greeting anyone within 5 feet.

Discussion questions:

1. How can civility be increased in the classroom?

2. Is it the operations manager’s job to keep employees happy?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 29, 2013 12:59 am

    Thankfully, our classrooms are pretty civil. I don’t force anyone to be there if they just don’t want to be there, and I am thankful that most students still see attendance as valuable.

    Southwest’s employee relations are worthy of study. They are completely unionized (which contradicts what I had believed for many years), and clearly their outreach policy pays returns such as their strike-free record. It perhaps demonstrates that union labor and efficient business management can coexist, if there is genuine effort by management to show concern for labor.

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