In the business world, human emotions are not part of the operating equations. Profitability, stock shares, bottom line, advertising, and overhead are just some factors a business must take into consideration if it wants to remain open. As such, decisions are made through consultation of these, and other, factors. For the most part the least salient factor is how decisions affect people. Does an employee’s potential reaction to a decision really affect the decision itself? The answer here is a broad, “no”. But, if we change the question to a should, the answer may be different: Should an employee’s potential reaction to a decision affect the decision itself? Perhaps the common answer is again a “no”.
But let’s break this down a bit. It would seem trivial to base decisions on (or at least have them influenced by) employees’ potential reaction. It’s a business and decisions must take the health of the business first and foremost. For most of the itme this does not present any, or many, problems. However, the danger grows as the dismissal of employees’ reactions grows. An obvious consequence is that most if not all employees will see the business, and those who run it, as uncaring, cold and profit driven. Again, from the business world point of view, this seems correct and righteous. Overlooked is the power of emotions from a central cog in the business wheel: the people.
A decision to cut break periods by 3 minutes may not sound like much on the surface. To the Board this has two consequences: it can save the company big bucks, and 3 minutes is not really all that much to cut. Objectively, these may be true, but this impersonal decision affects personal emotions. Employees may see this as a cold-hearted attempt by corporate big wigs to help them finance a new yacht. Consequently, employees become disheartened, unmotivated and may take to acts of revenge on the company (small acts, but if enough employees do it, it can snowball). This example is just that, and only aims to illustrate how a business decision, taken without regard to employees’ reactions, can backfire.
Yet, this is not the only area where employees’ emotions should be considered. There are other factors in an employee’s life than work. External tensions in an employee’s life can affect their work. How many times have you or a co-worker had a bad morning (argument with spouse, neighbor dispute, barking dog, traffic, etc) and come into work in a bad mood? Probably countless times. Some of those instances are one time shots–bad traffic from an accident, for example. Some of those instances, however, can linger and be reoccurring. If an employee has an ongoing feud with a neighbor, then that tension can build, affecting mood, sleep, patience and concentration on other tasks (like work). But it’s not a business problem, right? A business cannot take into account personal problems–it would be too costly. Right?
Yes…and no. While it remains a good idea for a business not to become involved in personal lives of staff, it does not mean that the business should ignore them. There are outside avenues for employees to follow to help them with domestic issues. Legal counsel is a common one, but it’s expensive and rather impersonal. Social work assistance is available to most. And conflict management is a new option that is timely, personal, and effective (and usually cheaper than legal counsel). A company cannot (and probably should not) offer such services. What they can do is offer employees information about such options so that the employee receives help, and the company shows some personal compassion. It’s a win/win for employee and company. There is a middle ground between impersonal decisions and personal impact.