Small Gestures that Have a Big Impact on Your Workers

Oct 25, 2012
6 Min Read

Humble. Decent. Accessible. Are these words your employees would use to describe you?

Those are terms often used to describe business tycoon Warren Buffet, the man who still lives in the Omaha, Neb. house he bought in 1958 for $31,500 and is often game to strike silly poses with fans who want a photograph with him.

If you’re not like Buffet, are you more likely to be the kind of boss who can’t make time for staff members – except to bark orders – and has to be tracked down in the bathroom by employees with a question?

Forcing employees to take such action just to get some face time is not only embarrassing and frustrating for workers, but shows you’re headed for the "a-hole boss" category. While you may believe having workers dislike you means that you’re doing a good job or being a tough leader, you’re on the wrong road.

That’s because many of the top leaders who garner loyalty, great business results and success (remember Buffet?) are also decent human beings who don’t abandon integrity as they climb the ladder of success.

The way to be a great leader is not that hard. In fact, it’s often the smallest things that can make the biggest difference to workers and garner their loyalty and respect.  Try:


  • Showing respect for an employee’s time. Don’t be the last one to show up for a meeting and the first one to leave, which tells employees that you think your time is more valuable. You’re in charge of the meeting and should be there to greet workers as they arrive, a gesture that conveys you value their time. Set a time for beginning and ending the meeting, and stick to it.
  • Don’t send mixed messages. If you tell employees that times are tough, and then show up in a new vehicle the next day, that won't look good. Bring a brown bag lunch and eat in the break room with workers, showing them you understand they’re making sacrifices, and you will too. If your company is going through a tough time or trying to complete a big project, don’t take time off. Seeing your face every day can go a long way in keeping workers focused, confident and upbeat.
  • Greet employees by name. Doing so will encourage them to feel more at ease around you and help them be more willing to open up to you about issues. Make sure you walk around several times a week, inviting employees to ask questions.
  • Showing appreciation. Place a personal thank-you note into a paycheck envelope or send a note asking employees to lunch. If you have a designated parking spot, give it to a different employee every week.
  • Being accessible. College professors often must have set office hours to be available to students, and that can be beneficial also for employees. Set an hour once a month that you’ll be available for workers who want to stop by. Turn off your phone, pager and computer and devote yourself to listening to whoever shows up.
  • Understanding no decency is too small. Do you have a quiet room where employees can go to escape from phones and computers? Have you ever shown up with all the fixings for hot fudge sundaes and surprised workers? Do you let them leave early on Halloween to get ready for trick-or-treating? Often, it’s the small gestures that can show employees you’re thinking of them and inspire them to be loyal and productive workers.

What are some small gestures do you think can make a big difference for employees?


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