Although it’s more than 30 years old, the movie 9 to 5 is still ranked the 20th highest-grossing comedy film of all time. It’s no surprise why: the storyline resonates with anyone who has ever been dissatisfied at work. Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton inspire even the most disgruntled among us with their triumphant victory over a terrible executive.
Today we might think this leader’s behavior is a bit outrageous. He takes credit for others’ work, makes sexist remarks and fires people at random. Yet we find ourselves nodding in agreement as the three employees commiserate about his shenanigans. Sadly, many employees have had an experience where someone took credit for their work. Or like the characters in the movie, we might have doubted the sincerity of a leader’s motives.
Just as these employees take actions (albeit, illegal) to resolve their issues, so will today’s disengaged employees seek solutions for their issues. Unhappy employees discuss their dissatisfaction about work with anyone inside or outside of the organization who will listen. They let their performance slip. And, research shows, they’ll find a job elsewhere within the next year or two.
As Parton sings in the movie’s famous theme song, the woes for many who work from nine to five include how “it’s all takin’ and no givin’” as well as the disappointment that “they [the people in charge] never give you credit.”
The message is simple, but true: sometimes engaging employees only requires showing some gratitude.
Leaders can demonstrate gratitude (and potentially increase employee engagement) by:
- Focusing on the giving, not just the taking. We get a lot from our employees – their time, effort and dedication. What are we giving them in return? Flexible work options? Equitable salaries? Good benefits? An enjoyable work environment? Rather than looking at what you get from employees, consider what you’re giving them for their efforts.
- Acknowledging others for their work. Be the leader who knows the names of the people who helped your team achieve a goal. Personally thank those people. When you receive recognition for your performance, mention the people who helped make it happen. Regularly send thank-you notes or emails to recognize other people’s contributions.