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By Greg Blencoe

Please repeat the following sentence in your mind until it becomes firmly entrenched in your management psyche: If I treat my employees like gold, then that is exactly what I will receive. Karma can be defined as your actions and the consequences of those actions. Every choice we make in life is like throwing a boomerang. The question is not whether or not the boomerang will come back because it most certainly will. The question is what will the boomerang bring back. The answer is that we always get back what we send out.

Let's use the analogy of a bank's operations to help explain this concept. At a bank, you can deposit money or take out a loan. When you deposit money, you get the initial money back at a future date and you also gain interest. When money is borrowed, you not only must pay back the money you received, but you also must pay interest. The point of the analogy is that whenever you give, you eventually get back what you gave plus a little bit more. Whenever you take, you must pay back what you took plus a little bit more.

So what does all of this fluffy talk about philosophy have to do with managing people? Well, quite a lot actually. Many managers are not cognizant of the consequences of their behavior when interacting with employees. Every action a manager takes when dealing with an employee eventually has an effect on employee performance. Employees directly or indirectly take from or give to the organization when a manager takes from or gives anything to employees. This can be called your "managerial karma."

Here are a few negative examples of this concept:

  • If a manager cheats an employee out of a bonus, then the employee will figure out a way, consciously or subconsciously, to take at least away from the company. This could be manifested in several forms. The employee might not work as hard, or be wasteful with the company's money, or describe the incident to lots of other employees.
  • If a manager constantly showers employees with criticism, then they will not be as helpful and courteous to the customers.
  • If a manager lays off employees at the drop of a hat during bad economic times, then they will not hesitate to accept a more lucrative offer from another company during good economic times.
Here are a few positive examples:

  • If a manager gives a group of employees bonus to split for having ,000 left over from the yearly budget, then they will try very hard the next year to be even more thrifty with the company's money.
  • If a manager praises an employee for working late every night one week to meet an important deadline, then that employee will respond by being more willing to do the same in the future.
  • If a manager sets a good example by strictly following the company rules, then the employees are much more likely to respect the rules.
Unfortunately, some managers do not understand or fully appreciate this concept. They have a much narrower viewpoint. They make decisions based on the perceived short-term gains and fail to recognize the true long-term consequences. And when their bad karma comes back to haunt them, they ignore their responsibility in the matter by saying such popular phrases as "Yeah, you just can't find good help these days."

Naturally, even if you treat employees perfectly, you may get burned at some point, whether or not you deserve it. But, in general, the quality of your workforce is a mirror-image of the quality of the overall choices you make concerning them up to that point. So, anytime you are having employee problems, take the time to fully analyze what caused them to happen. For example, let's assume that you have an employee who is consistently late. Ask yourself, when I hired this person did I check out his references thoroughly to see if this person had a past problem with tardiness? As a manager, am I constantly showing up late every morning and setting a poor example? Has this employee been reprimanded for consistently not showing up on time or have I let him get away with it? The bottom line is that you must take responsibility for the consequences of your previous actions. By accepting this responsibility, you can begin to make the right choices that will minimize your employee headaches and maximize their productivity in the future.

When dealing with employees, managers should always remember that: what goes around, comes around. Ignore this eternal truth at your own peril.

Article courtesey of Family Business Strategies.

About the author: Gregory J. Blencoe is a management consultant and author of The Art of Management ( www.theartofmanagement.com ). He has written articles for numerous magazines including Success, Human Resources Executive, Business Credit, and Canadian Business Franchise. Greg can be reached at http://www.gregblencoe.com.

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