Over the past 25 years, I’ve conducted hundreds of consulting and training assignments in many different types of organizations, including manufacturers, service providers, professional practices, the military, and non-profits, including churches.

I’ve met and worked with thousands of employees in different occupations, organizations of different sizes, and in several regions of the country. And of course these employees worked for hundreds of different bosses.

During this time, I’ve literally heard thousands of gripes, complaints, concerns, problems, and issues.

Yet there’s one employee complaint that I’ve heard more than any other.

The single biggest complaint employees give me is this one:“my boss doesn’t acknowledge me or even say hello to me when he or she sees me.”

That’s it. Surprising, isn’t it?

When and where does this happen?

The first thing in the morning. Or, when the boss is walking through the office or plant with or without a visitor. 

When an employee returns from vacation or a sick day. Or, when the boss is on the way to a meeting, and so on.

Let’s look at this a little deeper.

Why is this so important?

Think about the people you don’t acknowledge or greet when you see them.

They’re likely to be: 

  1. People you don’t know.
  2. People you don’t want to know.
  3. People you don’t like.

    If this is true, then what message do you think a supervisor, manager, or executive sends to an employee when they don’t acknowledge or greet them when they see them? (I’m not suggesting greeting someone you see 20 times a day every time you run into them!)

    Right, it sends them a message that they must be one of the 3 people mentioned above.

    I’m probably one of the few management consultants and trainers who truly likes office and plant tours, and who will ask for one if it isn’t offered.

    You see, an office or plant tour reveals far more about the organization than many managers tell you–or are even aware of.

    Without exception, I always observe and listen to whether or not the manager or executive taking me on the tour greets or acknowledges employees as we encounter or pass by them.

    Almost without exception, I find more problems in organizations where managers and executives don’t greet or acknowledge their employees than in those where they do.

    In fact, I’d be willing to bet money on this.

    How does this relate to motivating and retaining capable employees?

    It’s no secret that the single biggest reason good employees leave is because of a poor work relationship with their immediate boss.

    If the biggest complaint employees have about their boss is that she or he doesn’t acknowledge or greet them (when it would be so easy to do so), how does this impact their work relationship with their boss?

    Negatively; in effect, it says the employee is a non-person.

    How motivated are employees when they think their boss sees them as, and treats them as, a non-person?

    Employees with any real self esteem and capabilities find new employers.

    Management needs to remind its supervisors, managers, and executives to use good human relations skills with employees. 

    This requires acknowledging them, greeting them, and calling them by name. Among other things.

    What do you need to do so this biggest employee complaint doesn’t occur in your organization, or to eliminate it it if is?

    When employees feel valued as people, their inner desire to do more for their boss and organization typically increases accordingly.

    It’s what happens in more productive workplaces.


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Conversations at Work helps people in organizations have the workplace
conversations they’ve been avoiding—and improve productivity.

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