Human Resources



When employees strike back

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You might not be at the top of your organisation, but you’re the leader of many (or even a few) and it gives you a sense of power. You’re the boss, so you can make the rules, bend the rules and change the rules when it suits you.

Or maybe you are the leader. The big wig. You feel as though you’re the one taking the biggest risk (financially and otherwise) in your business, so you have every right to act slightly superior to everyone who works for you, and do whatever you want. It’s your ass on the line, not theirs.

Well, guess what? Sometimes, your employees strike back.

These employees from a New York shop got so fed up with a boss who subjected them to “abuse” – and who said “cancer wasn’t an excuse”, apparently – that they shut up shop and left a very public and nasty note out front for everyone to see.

“This is why you can’t keep a store manager longer than a year,” the sign read.

“You abuse your roll (sic) and and staff. Enjoy the fact that you lost a store manager, co-manager, and key holder in the middle of back to school. Think next time you treat people the way you do. We aren’t allowing it anymore.”

These staff members might not be from a huge multi-national company, or even a nationwide store, but the sentiment is the same – treat your staff poorly, and they could very well retaliate.

You might say it’s different because this incident happened in America, at a time when unemployment is high and bosses can (probably) get away with more poor behaviour because they know their staff need their jobs. Desperate employees can and will put up with a certain amount of unfair behaviour in tough times.

But it’s different in Singapore, you might think. The talent have the upper hand and have their pick of the bunch when it comes to choosing a place of employment. Management doesn’t have the luxury (if you call it that, which you shouldn’t) of berating and undermining their staff, because they’ll leave them in a second and you’ll have to start from scratch finding their replacement.

While that may be true to a certain extent, it doesn’t stop some local employers from behaving badly.

But what this incident really brings to light is a much larger issue that everyone – whether in the US or Singapore – can forget from time to time: Your employees will make or break your business. For real.

While a lot of bosses put a huge amount of effort into hiring the best, it can stop there. Either they forget their staff are actual people with feet (to walk out the door) and opinions (to spread as they badmouth you and your company to their network), or they simply stop trying to keep them on board because they know that somewhere out there they will find someone to replace them. No big deal.

But at the end of the day, doing the right thing for your employees will benefit you and your business.

Employees who feel they are being developed and nurtured will remain loyal and will do whatever they can to help you keep the company successful.

But employees who feel they are being treated unfairly, overlooked or ignored won’t stick around for longer than they deem necessary.

Your employees have more power than you might give them credit for. Don’t forget it.

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