"My employees give me the kind of work that mere wages cannot buy. They are honest with me because I am honest with them, and they are honest with each other. A man found twenty-eight dollars on the floor in one of the rooms one day. I advertised through the factory that money had been found and there was only one claimant out of a thousand of employees, and he was the boy who lost it. Aside from the money-making interest I have in my concern, a decent man feels proud to know that there is that kind of a spirit among those who work for him."
I know a New York business man who has won the love and respect of every employee in his large establishment by the use of similar methods. He says that if he notices a sad, sour, discontented face anywhere in his establishment he calls the owner of it into his private office and says: "Look here, you are not happy; there is something wrong. Now, be frank with me and tell me what the trouble is." The disgruntled employee then tells what the trouble is. Perhaps some other employee is abusing him; perhaps someone over him is not treating him right. Whatever the complaint the employer sends for the other person implicated. Then they talk the matter over together; it is usually adjusted easily, and the employer sends both employees away happy.
This is the only way to get the best out of employees, to make them happy and contented in their work, by kindness and sympathy and fair and honorable treatment in all respects. There is something seriously lacking in an employee who will not respond to such treatment, and he will pay the price for it as did that dishonest builder, "a foolish eye-servant, a poor rogue," of whom Edwin Markham tells this story.
"He and his little ones were wretched and roofless, whereupon a certain good Samaritan said, in his heart, 'I will surprise this man with the gift of a comfortable home.' So, without telling his purpose, he hired the builder at fair wages to build a house on a sunny hill, and then he went on business to a far country.
"The builder was left at work with no watchman but his own honor. 'Ha!' said he to his heart, 'I can cheat this man. I can skimp the material and scamp the work.' So he went on spinning out the time, putting in poor service, poor nails, poor timbers.
"When the good Samaritan returned, the builder said: 'That is a fine house I built you on the hill.' 'Good,' was the reply; 'Go, move your folks into it at once, for the house is yours. Here is the deed.'
"The man was thunderstruck. He saw that, instead of cheating his friend for a year, he had been industriously cheating himself. 'If I had only known it was my own house I was building!' he kept muttering to himself."
I know a young man who is acting like this unfaithful servant, who also doesn't know that he is cheating himself; For several years he has been clipping his office hours, going to his work late in the morning, remaining away for half a day or more at a time under all sorts of pretexts - illness, or pretended blocks on the streetcars, and yet he thinks he has a grievance because he is not advanced more rapidly. He tells me that his salary has not been advanced for years, and that he sees no chance for promotion. He complains that many of his fellow workers with less ability have been promoted many times while he has remained stationary.
This "foolish eye-servant" seems to think that his employer is blind, and that he has been able to pull the wool over his eyes for years without arousing even a suspicion of his back-slidings. He brags of his ability, but he hasn't intelligence enough to see that the same qualities which have put his employer at the head of a large business enable him to read the character of his employees, to know those who are faithfully and loyally serving his interests, and those who are backsliding and serving only their own ease and pleasure. In the long run this young man and all employees of his type will find that, like the dishonest builder, they are cheating themselves.
Many young employees, just because they do not get quite as much salary as they think they should, throw away all of the other, larger, grander remuneration possible for them to get outside of their pay envelope, for the sake of "getting square" with their employer. They deliberately adopt a shirking, do-as-little-as-possible policy, and instead of getting this larger, more important salary, which they can pay themselves, they prefer the consequent arrested development, and become small, narrow, inefficient, rutty men and women, with nothing magnanimous, nothing broad, noble or progressive in their nature. Their leadership faculties, their initiative, their planning ability, their ingenuity and resourcefulness, inventiveness, and all the qualities which make the leader, the complete, well rounded man, remain undeveloped. While trying to "get square" with their employer, by giving him pinched service, they blight their own growth, strangle their prospects, and go through life half men instead of full men - small, narrow, weak men, instead of the strong, grand, complete men they might be.
There is another class of employees who by their disloyalty, both in and out of the office, factory or shop - wherever they are employed - in constantly "knocking" their employers, hurt themselves as much as the shirkers. I know one of those knockers who is always sneering at his employer, criticizing his methods and making slurring or insulting remarks about him. It is positively painful to hear this young man's querulous complaints and bitter criticisms of his "boss."
It always pains me to hear employees knocking the employer and the concern they are working for, criticizing their methods, turning up their noses at their policy. Apart from the lack of good-will, of sympathy in their attitude, it shows lack of principle and great weakness of character. If you do not like the people you are working for; if their methods are unfair, dishonest; if your conscience does not approve them, then you should leave them instead of finding fault and criticizing. You should get another job. Whatever the cause may be, the habit of knocking is very injurious to the "knocker." It keeps the mind embittered, and tends to kill creative power. No one can do his best work while he nurses bitterness in his heart toward anyone.
There is yet another class of employees who are so thin-skinned and sensitive that they cannot stand any criticism or correction from employers, even though it be for their own good. A young man of this type threw up his job recently because, as he put it, he "couldn't stand the gaff." His manager, he said, was always criticizing his work, constantly prodding him for not doing better, and so he got tired of it and quit.
To be too thin-skinned or sensitive is also to be weak, and it will not pay either in business or in social life. If the climbing instinct is sufficiently strong in you, if you are determined to get on and up in the world, if you have backbone, you won't be afraid of a little criticism or correction, especially when it is intended for your improvement.
There are some employees that the meanest employers cannot find fault with, because their work is always carefully, conscientiously, and painstakingly done. And if your employer is always scolding you and criticizing your work, you will find, if you examine yourself carefully, that there is a reason for it. If you are honest with yourself you will probably find that to attribute all of it to his meanness, to his unfortunate disposition or bad temper, is simply covering up the real reason and deceiving yourself.
But in the final equation the burden of responsibility for making a good or a bad employee rests largely with the employer, for we call out of others the qualities we appeal to. Whatever we awaken in another's nature has an affinity for the influence which awakened it. A magnet run through a pile of rubbish will draw out only nails, tacks, screws, or whatever has an affinity for it. We draw out of employees or others just the qualities which correspond with our moods, our motives, and our manner toward them. Every manager, every employer, is a magnet which calls certain things out of employees. Some men never touch the best in their employees, never arouse their best qualities, because the methods they use are not calculated to do so. Their character is expressed in their methods, and they appeal to the lowest, instead of the highest, in human nature.
It is astonishing how quickly the qualities of the head of a concern will trickle clear down to every employee on his force, so that they will take on his characteristics. If he has high ideals, if he is refined and cultivated, they will tend to reflect his ideals, his refinement, his culture. If he is low, coarse, animal in his tastes, in his instincts, he will draw out all that is worst in his employees.
I tell you, my friend employer, it is give and take in this world. Action and reaction are equal. We get what we give. I have heard employers say: "What's the use in wasting your sympathy in trying to help employees; they don't appreciate it; they are a lot of cattle." Now if you hold that sort of attitude toward those who are making your success possible, you will always have a troublesome labor problem. Your employees are your brothers and sisters, and until you regard them as such, and treat them as such, you are going to be in hot water, and they are going to stint their services. It is only human nature that they will try to get all they can out of you as long as you are playing the same game with them.
The intelligent business world, generally, and many of our housewives, are beginning to find that a pooling of interests, mutual respect, sympathy, kindness and consideration between employer and employee, in short, the practice of love's way, is the one only and infallible solution of labor problems and difficulties.