Treating Employees Right

I have seen some employers who figure that a down economy means they can treat employees poorly.  I suppose the logic is “they should be happy to have any job at all”.  Since the employer figures their workers can’t really leave, the employers make demands that they would never make in a normal economy.


This approach is very short-sighted.  First, the very top employees are always going to be in demand.  I’m not talking about good, solid employees. I’m talking about the star performers–the top 5%.  These types of people are always in demand, simply because they are rare.  When an employer treats people poorly, the best people are the first to leave because they have other options.  This leaves the employer at a significant disadvantage because the top performers are responsible for more than their fair share of the company’s results.

Second, even though the other people may stay because they can’t find a job, that doesn’t mean they are going to be engaged.  There are very few jobs that really track employee results.  If an employer treats people poorly, they aren’t going to put the same level of effort into what they do. This is going to happen even if the employees aren’t doing it intentionally.  When you have a bunch of employees who refuse to go the extra mile (or even an extra two feet) to help a customer, you have a company that is in trouble.

Third, employees have long memories.  When the economic condition changes, they will be very happy to leave–even if the employer tries to put on a kinder face. Worse, they will tell others about their experience and the employer may have trouble finding anyone other than people who can’t get a job anywhere else.  Of course, the employer probably won’t realize what is happening.  No one is going to tell the HR department “I’m not going to interview with you because of the way you’ve treated past employees”.

If anything, a poor economy is a chance for companies to really treat their workers well.  There may not be as much money for bonuses and raises, but employers can do a lot by simply being kind.

What are your experiences in a down economy?  Have you found that employers treat you better, or worse?


  1. atomickitten says

    I had managers who were treating everyone like dirt. I resigned. No way Im working with someone like that. I love happy environments and that include workplaces. Same way when staff dont treat their customers right, I dont buy from their store at all.

    So the real losers are businesses who dont teach their staff (and managers) how to treat customers right (and each other right). No customer means no sale. No sale means no income. No income means no profit. No profit mean the business go bust.

    So to everyone, be polite and love your job. If you dont, just quit and find work that would make you happy.

  2. says

    For a year management used those exact words about how we should just be happy we had jobs and would nitpicking about personality things like if we were grumpy or they didn’t like the expression on our face. Now, our industry is getting a lot of stimulus money and even though we aren’t getting raises, one director actually said off- handedly in a meetng — “we know other people are going to be calling about work, but we’d appreciate if you’d stay.”. Nothing about how much they appreciate us or how sorry they are for treating us so bad for a year. You aren’t kidding about employees having long memories.

  3. says

    Nice points! I never thought about employees leaving at soon as the economy straightens itself out if they were mistreated now. Interesting food for thought… I am both an employee and employer (of sorts) Having jobs I love mixed with this job market has only made me appreciate my job even more and work harder. Thanks for the interesting posts!

  4. says

    I believe employees, like all individuals, should be treated right not just during difficult times but all the time. Showing respect towards others is a big factor. It leads to better, more harmonious working relationships, as well as personal ones.

    A company looking to spring back from the economic downturn in 2009, and improve their business in 2010, could pick up a few tips from here. Treating employees right would help in keeping the top people in the company, and providing a good working environment for people inspires them to be more productive, confident and satisfied – leading to more profit and benefits for the company in the long run.

  5. Anonymous says

    Almost 24 yrs with the same company, 2 yrs ago, lost our yearly bonus (piddly compared to the banks) took a pay cut.. lost our home.
    Company offers me a spot I wasn’t sure about in sales, (demotion) as I’m into service, not sales, transferred us, another cut in pay. Lived 4 mos in 15 yr old not very big motor home. Transferred to a depressed area, not much in the way of sales, farmers fix it themselves and by cheaper parts. 1 yr later, company cuts me again, another 10,000,,, now… Bankruptcy, move out of our house we rent back into now 16 yr old Motorhome, wife 4 dogs, wife that cant quit crying because we’ve lost everything.. life is good huh?
    In the past yr after the large company has layed off, fired, and cut pay, triple the expectations of the the employees still working, company has bought up new territory, bought new land for new corporate office… Do I have the right to have lost respect and start sending out resumes? LMAO.. I think I do and hopefully it will be a job with one of there customers!

  6. says

    I accepted a 1-month Contract Senior Technical Writer position at a downtown Orlando manufacturing company, iGPS, creator of RFID-tagged, all-plastic pallets. The owners had started the company after quitting their jobs at their biggest competitor, CHEP, the largest wood pallet pooling company in the world.

    The company manuals that I read for the first two weeks on the job advertised the firm’s beginnings and purpose. Launched in March 2006, the company seemed cutting-edge and exciting! After all, iGPS boasted the world’s first pallet rental service providing shippers and receivers with all-plastic pallets with embedded RFID tags. The pallets were 30 percent lighter than wood, which saved on transport costs and helped reduce green house gases. The pallets were also more hygienic, easier to handle, and because they eliminate protruding nails and splinters, claimed to reduce workplace injuries and damaged equipment. The embedded RFID tags also enabled shippers and receivers to track and trace shipments. Because the iGPS pallets were 100 percent recyclable, iGPS also created new green jobs in the U.S.A!

    While iGPS had a good product with amazing business potential, the company culture was less than desired. The management apparently thought it also part of it’s GREEN mission to constantly recycle Contractors. While Contractors are often treated like second-class citizens at the workplace, during the Layoff economy of 2008-2009, iGPS seemed to enjoy taking advantage of the thousands of unemployed by hiring them on as Contractors and then “playing with them” akin to the way a cat plays with its prey.

    A woman who braved the humiliations and was eventually hired on as a Permanent Test Team employee warned me that I would be “tricked and tested beyond your wildest dreams.” She should have said “nightmares.”

    Each day I came to work that month, I was not only given a different place to sit, but sometimes it was merely a chair, other times it was a desk, and when I was finally assigned to a desk, it was moved from day-to-day, from room-to-room, including the hallway, so each morning I had to hunt my desk down. The first two 7-day weeks of my one-month contract (for which I was paid $35 per hour) were spent reading the company manuals as an example of the work I would create, and of course, hunting down my desk.

    During this time, the contract technical writers were told at 5 PM one day that they must stay “as long as it took” to help the Test Team meet a deadline. Some folks said they needed more notice, as they had to meet their car pool, pick up kids, etc. They were immediately terminated. (I called my ex-husband for child pick up, and luckily, he agreed.) That evening at work, we merely sat or stood to look over a Tester’s shoulder as they worked. After all, we had no computers.

    At 9:30 PM, our Manager thanked us for staying and sent us home.

    By the beginning of the third week, I was assigned two projects that were due ASAP: a business case and a quick reference software user guide. However, while I had a monitor and keyboard, I had no computer/CPU/workstation, so I couldn’t do the assignment, and there weren’t pencils, pens, or notepads from Supply permitted to Contractors.

    Co-workers whispered that I needed to order the computer at the front desk, so I did. However, it did not stop my manager from yelling at me for an hour straight for not working on my project. It was amazing to watch a man yell for so long without taking a breath.

    Another time, we were warned to not bring lunch the following day, as we would have a lunch meeting during which lunch would be served. The next morning, the manager took our pizza order, asking us to specify vegetarian or meat toppings. During the meeting, the president/owner of the company droned on about the history of the company and the fine details of the product, including showing a video, while our loudly growling stomachs almost drowned out his voice. At the end of the 90-minute meeting, our manager gleefully shouted, “Oh well! I guess the pizzas didn’t arrive. Go back to work!”

    As the employees crowded around the vending machines, the company Accountant stood watch and growled at us about how the company used to generously offer free sodas until everyone started stealing them.

    My prayers were answered when I was called to interview for another position closer to home in Research Park the following day. When I asked to leave early for my scheduled “doctor appointment,” I was promptly terminated.

    This, despite their good review of the use case and quick reference guide I completed once I received a computer equipped with Microsoft Word, and for working a continuous seven-day, work-week, for staying late at a moment’s notice, and of course, enduring the humiliating management melt-downs.

    Another Contract Technical Writer actually lasted for five months. We found each other on and emailed about our experiences. Although we acknowledged experiencing similar scenarios while contracting for the Department of Defense (especially Lockheed Martin), iGPS was the only commercial company that participated in the New Employee Indoctrination Method I like to call Mind Game Boot Camp.

    I had actually lasted for five weeks of the “1-month” contract. It was both one of the most stressful, interesting, humorous (in hindsight) and even work-free positions of my technical writing stint as a Contractor.

  7. says

    If your employees think they can do nothing right how do you expect them to excel or stay motivated. No One sucks 100% of the time so FIND something positive and use it to strengthen them and if that means stepping up a physically assisting them – then do it! When ALL they get is negativity your company is doomed but it applies to your leaders. If they have been getting their butts handed to them and your only response is to come in say

    “oh by the way you missed this, this and this….. oh and that sucked.”

    Then you are just draining the life out of them ….. If you want zombies for a workforce then enjoy the profits because they will not last!

    Teamwork is the key to success but when you can not name a single person on YOUR TEAM … then your team is broken and the team knew it long before you did!

  8. Marshall says

    Corporations Need to realize all these seasonal workers they are hiring and treating as inhuman numbers are customers too. The article points out possible employee backlash when the labor market tightens; which is true. An even bigger consequence will be the loss of business from thousands of discarded workers. For instance talk to recent college grads who did short term stints at where it’s made obvious that people are not valued all that counts is the labor that can be forced from them while the almighty bottom dollar wage is paid. Talk to these what at this point might be millions of ex Amazon employees, ask them if they shop at Amazon now. You’ll not just get emphatic -NO’S. You’ll get Hell NO!
    Corporations at last have proven their own short sightedness and for many sealed their own fates with their inhuman and profit above all else working conditions they were shortsighted enough to subject a generation of potential now lost customers to.

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