by Roy Saunderson | February 03, 2012
For the past few years, we have focused this column on specific ways to keep employees motivated, engaged, and happy during uncertainty, holiday distractions, change in leadership, and myriad other situations. But what about the day-to-day of it all? What about the 9-to-5 Monday-through-Friday? Below are some essential ways "to be," and not just things “to do,” for keeping your employees engaged, focused, and happy to return the next morning and do it all over again!

1. Be nice. It sounds so simple, but when employees are greeted in the morning with a smile, a happy nod, a wave, or a verbal "good morning," along with a mention of their names, it matters. Such goodwill gestures have the ability to influence employees’ attitudes through the rest of the day.

2. Be caring. If you know an employee has an ill relative, a graduating son or daughter, or a vacation coming up, acknowledge the situation with kind concern and congratulatory or appropriate comments, grace, and enthusiasm. Your employees are people first and not just figures who spend eight hours on the job with you.

3. Be mindful. When your employees are doing well, be the boss you should be and thank them, while making sure to offer ways for them to grow in their jobs When your employees are not measuring up, be candid with them and tell them you are concerned and offer ideas on how they can improve.

4. Be helpful. If an employee has a situation requiring a work shift change that would be of great assistance, grant it. Whether it’s allowing a different lunchtime, a one-off telecommute day, or early dismissal, if it helps the person and doesn't significantly harm you or the department, allow it.

5. Be courteous. If your employee is running late due to a traffic jam or a sick child, start the meeting later. Consider how you would feel and what you would want done if the situation were reversed. As you demonstrate respect by thinking of the employee, the employee will respect what you need of him or her on the job.

6. Be sensitive. If you have an employee who gets hot or cold at her work station, offer a solution like a portable fan or heater. And if that doesn't work, perhaps suggest a relocation to another part of the office. Show employees you care about things that are personal to them.

7. Be present. If your employees hold their own monthly potlucks, birthday celebrations, or after-hours gatherings, and they tell you about them and invite you, show up. While not every event will be convenient or lend itself well to an appearance by “the boss," when you are invited, do accept the offer! And then, when you’re in the room, be in the room mentally and spiritually. 

8. Be happy. If you’re having a hard time with work or life, don’t take it out on employees. Take a deep breath. Put things in perspective and smile. No one likes working for a grump, and it’s true that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. By being happy, you can’t help but be nice, and people will reciprocate.

9. Be responsive. If your employees approach you with a work problem, listen and act by offering a solution. Whether their ideas work or not, show appreciation for their proactive approach. Whenever appropriate, share the ideas with others and implement them if they’re really sound.

10. Be grateful. To meet your objectives, your team needs to fulfill their objectives, too. Thank them for a job well done as often as you can—hourly, daily, weekly, monthly. Whether it’s referencing on-time delivery schedules or acknowledging compassion for a co-worker, expressing appreciation will elevate your workforce to greater heights!

Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is author of Giving the Recognition Way and president of the Recognition Management Institute,, which consults companies on improving employee motivation that leads to increased productivity and profit. He can be reached at [email protected] Also, tune in every Tuesday to his radio show, Real Recognition Radio.