Keeping Employees Happy

Dear, Anita,

I have a hunch that one of my direct reports may be looking for another job. I’d really hate to lose her, as she is so dependable and, after being with us for four years, really knows the ins and outs of the business. We did give her a 3% raise about 5 months ago, so it’s too early to give her another pay bump. What else can our company do to keep her happy here?

Dear, Sweating Bullets,

There are numerous studies on the reasons that people leave their jobs. I won’t make you feel terrible by quoting “The Savage Truth” blog: “It’s not the company they are leaving. It’s you.” Whoopsie.

Most managers assume it’s about the money. PricewaterhouseCoopers found that compensation was actually number 3 on the list, with limited career/promotion opportunities and lack of respect/support from supervisors as number 1 and 2, respectively.  A survey by Staffing Industry Analysts found the top three reasons employees left a staffing job were bad management, bad environment, and a lack of opportunity. Entrepreneur cites advancement, work/life balance, and money as the top 3 reasons people leave jobs.

So what can you do to manage your team in a positive environment where workers feel valued and have room for professional growth?

It may be helpful to look at businesses people are dying to work for — such as Google, named a “Best Place To Work” by Fortune and Glassdoor’s 2015 Employees’ Choice Awards. Not every company can offer on-site haircuts and dry-cleaning, subsidized massages, and rec rooms equipped with foosball and video games, but there are feasible things you can do. When Google changed its maternity leave from a 12-week plan to 5 months taken at the new mom’s discretion, the attrition rate for new mothers reduced by 50%. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the cost to replace and hire new staff is estimated to be 60 percent of an employee’s annual salary. That may be reason enough to keep your current employees satisfied.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) suggests employee incentive programs such as flex time, workplace wellness programs, project completion perks, and corporate memberships.

You didn’t mention your employee’s age, but Generation X may want different perks and purpose than their predecessors. According to researchers Charlotte and Laura Shelton, 51% of Gen Xers said they’d quit if another employer offered them the chance to telecommute and 61% of Gen X women would leave their current jobs if they were offered more flexible hours elsewhere. The top 3 things Gen X want in a job: positive relationships with colleagues, interesting work, and opportunities for learning.

You’ll have to probe to determine what the silver bullet is for this particular staffer and see if your company is willing to make changes not just for her, but to increase employee retention in the future.

Readers: If you were considering leaving your job, what could your employer offer that would make a difference?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Stay or Quit?

Dear, Anita,

I’ve been unhappy at my current job for a while. I am butting heads with my moody supervisor, and the daily grind (not to mention the commute) is getting me down. But I make decent money and have pretty good benefits. How do I decide whether to stick it out or quit?

Dear, On the Fence,
IOn_the_Fence_iStock_000009524325_Smallf, like The Clash, you are asking yourself “Should I stay or should I go?,” take the time to write a list of the positives and negatives. Sometimes the grass looks greener elsewhere because you are stewing on the few aspects of your job that get you down instead of ruminating on all the plusses. Putting it down on paper – or in Excel – may lead to a visual “aha” moment.

An online decision tool like helpMYdecision adds weight to each factor in the choice. Are your salary and benefits extremely important (10) or not very (1)? (Answer this after looking at your monthly bills.) Does working at something meaningful rank higher than money for you? Is a more cooperative relationship with a boss a 7, a shorter commute a 5 or an 8? Does having an office with a window versus a cubicle not matter at all to you? After weighting the determinants, rate your current situation then let the computer give you its “Best Choice.”  Sometimes, when we ask advice, we are really just seeking validation for the choice we’ve subconsciously made. So take notice if you think hooray! when the decision appears, or if you feel disappointed. Then go with your gut.

Manager_Employee_Serious_SpeakIf you’ve decided to stay, see what you can do to repair your relationship with your boss. Relationships are based on trust. Can your boss count on you to do your assigned tasks? It’s even better if you “go the extra mile.” It’s your job to make your supervisor look good to her superiors and/or customers.  Perhaps her bad moods crop up after she’s had an unpleasant interaction with her boss over problems or productivity issues.  She’s only human and may unwittingly take it out on those around her. Try the “kill her with kindness” approach, no matter her mood. Find something – anything – to compliment. It may not happen overnight, but you may be surprised how a little positivity can change a relationship or an entire workplace.

If and when you leave your current job, don’t burn any bridges. Use that 2-week notice timeframe to tie up any loose ends and leave your replacement with an organized desk and files. Telling your supervisor exactly what you think of her management style on your last day won’t really help you or her.

But don’t leave until you’ve found another position. It’s easier to find a job if you have a job (there’s some psychology at play – if you’re currently employed, you’re obviously a desirable hire.)  And it may take you longer than you think to obtain better employment. Keep your pro and con list in mind when searching for a new job to keep from jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Readers: Are you contemplating quitting your job? Why?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Better Résumé Words, or How to Improve Your Résumé by a Thousandfold

Dear, Anita,

A few months ago, our company was purchased and I was found “redundant.” I’ve been searching diligently for a sales job ever since, but I haven’t gotten many nibbles (responses), much less bites (interviews) with my applications and online résumé. I’ve got a wife and teenage boys to feed – and you know how much they eat! What advice do you have for me?

Dear, Displaced “Papa,”

During an interview, Ernest Hemingway revealed that he rewrote the last page to A Farewell to Arms 39 times before he was satisfied. When the journalist asked what had stumped the famous author, Hemingway replied, “Getting the words right.”

If your résumé isn’t getting the response you desire, it may be time to take a fresh look with the goal of “perfecting your language” (see what I did there with the help of

You want to optimize your résumé for both humans and the computer software that may scan them first. Tailor your wording to speak their language. While your title may have been Sales Manager, another company may call this Business Development. When applying for a posted job, be sure to use some of the exact words in the ad – particularly the nouns and position title. This will ensure the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) will pass you through the gateway so a real live hiring manager will actually have the opportunity to read your résumé. And that’s when those sexy verbs come into play. The Daily Muse offers 185 Powerful Verbs that you can swap out with your templated jargon to make your résumé more dynamic.

Forgo the boring listing of duties following the trite, “Responsible for…” The recruiter is far more interested in what you accomplished while performing your job functions. Here’s where you pair your lively verbs with winning nouns and throw in a quantifier for good measure to create power phrases. Can’t you just hear the implied exclamation point at the end of the verbiage in the right column?

Responsible for client management… Increased new clients by 172%
Duties included sales… Acquired a $2.3 million service contract
Provide administrative support Document 200-275 customer notifications weekly


And while we’re on the subject of literary style, let’s discuss that lackluster cover letter yawner, “Please accept my résumé in response to your ad for…” Before you even walk in the door for an interview, your cover letter is your first impression. This is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd with a carefully crafted opening sentence. I wonder how many rewrites it took the Jerry Maguire scriptwriter to polish Renee Zellweger’s classic line, “You had me at ‘hello.’ ”

Readers: Take a crack at one entry in your résumé and share your rewrite below. Or if you’re stumped, let the Clew Community help out.

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Work Toward 10,000 Steps

Dear, Anita,

Like lots of people, I’ve made a resolution to get in better shape this year. But with an 8-to-5 office job, it’s really hard to be active and lose any weight. What’s a desk jockey to do?

Dear, Cubicle Commando,

What? Your boss won’t agree to the hamster wheel standing desk?

A Japanese researcher in the 1960s, Dr. Yoshiro Hatano, determined the people should walk 10,000 steps a day to burn about 20% of caloric intake through activity. A pedometer company made this their sales slogan, and the 10,000 step recommendation (or challenge, as the case may be) is now, well, pedestrian. But with the typical American sitting 7.5 hours at work each day, according to, it’s hard to squeeze in 10K.

Would you like a few reasons to make the effort? According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is the main cause for 21-25% of breast and colon cancers, 27% of diabetes, and approximately 30% of heart disease. It’s being said, “Sitting is the new smoking.”

Let’s see how we can sneak more activity into your workday. First, you’ll need a tracking device. One of those pedometers should do the trick – just attach to the waistband of your PJs (you want to count those groggy morning schleps to the coffeemaker!) and switch it to your pants or skirt to capture your workplace steps. There are also cell phone apps like Pacer, Runtastic Pedometer, or Pedometer++. The drawback to a cell app is if you forget to take your phone to every meeting or trip to the bathroom, it can’t record every step. And they can deplete your battery more quickly. Wearable devices such as Fitbit or Jawbone fitness trackers come in clip on or wrist versions and allow you to monitor your progress on your computer or mobile device.

If you take public transportation to work, get off one or two stops prior to your usual and hoof it the rest of the way. If you drive to work, instead of looking for that rock star parking spot, leave your vehicle in no man’s land to log an extra 50, 100, or more steps on your pedometer.

Shoot for the stairs instead of the elevator. You work on the 13th floor? Lucky you (some buildings skip from the 12th to the 14th floor for the superstitious)! If the average flight of stairs contains 20 steps, you’ve just added another 260 steps before you even clocked in.

A trip to the break room to get your morning java – and the necessary restroom visit shortly thereafter – all start to add up.  Several times a day, pretend email doesn’t exist and walk to your co-worker’s office to hash out a project or ask a question. Is your printer within arm’s reach? Move it across the room so you have to get out of your chair more often.

A strenuous workout during your lunch hour may not be feasible, as you don’t want to offend your officemates if you haven’t time to shower before returning to your desk. Schedule the gym before work (yes, that means setting the alarm for o’dark-thirty) or after work if you’re nervous about finishing up in time. A lunchtime walk requires no change of clothes, though women may want to swap heels for sneakers. Make it a habit to window shop or stroll briskly through a nearby park. (If you’re opting out because you live in a cold, snowy climate, know this: your body burns even more calories to regulate your core temperature in cold weather. Bonus!)

Get a wireless headset for your office phone so that you can pace while on those conference calls. Schedule walk and talk meetings if you don’t need to access documents on your desktop computer.

Can you pat your head and rub your belly at the same time? If you’re coordinated, try an under-the-desk pedal exerciser if you feel you just can’t take walking breaks in your oh-so-busy workday. Test your pedometer to see if it measures cycling as steps.

Watch this British office worker reach and surpass her 10,000-step goal:

Keep the momentum going after work. Remember to take your phone out of your purse in the grocery cart so that all those trips up and down the aisles count on your pedometer app. When watching TV, get up during commercials – but don’t walk to the refrigerator every time.  Or, do what I did. Move into a second-story condo with a cute but incontinent dog who requires walks five times daily.

Readers: How many steps do you think you can tally each workday? Share your results below!

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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