THE POWER OF APPRECIATION: A 3-part Blog Series – Part Two: More than the air we breathe

Part 2 – More than the air we breathe

“Trust is like the air we breathe. When it’s present, nobody really notices. But when it’s absent, everybody notices.”  —Warren Buffett

kayakWhen I first moved to Colorado I was enamored with all the outdoor activities that were possible and I promised myself I would try them all. A number of years ago, I decided that summer would be about learning to whitewater kayak. I had a friend who was a professional kayaker and he offered to take me and a friend out at a nearby creek that was mellow enough we could practice.

A few things to know about whitewater kayaking: Kayaks are small, very small – getting in is difficult and getting out seems nearly impossible. The water in Colorado is cold, like ice-cold – consider it was snow only a few hours ago and this makes sense. And whitewater kayaks tip over easily, very easily. After maybe 15 minutes of paddling, the bow of my kayak caught a little ripple and I learned how all three of those factors can induce immediate panic when you are upside down, underwater, half-way jammed into a plastic coffin. It probably only took a few seconds for me to extricate myself from the boat and resurface but it felt like minutes. And it made me realize how much I appreciated breathing.

All due respect to Mr. Buffet but I think it is more than just noticing the air – I mean I appreciated it. And it’s not just that way with trust or air, it seems to be a theme in most people’s lives. We only seem to appreciate the sun when it’s raining, we only appreciate the rain when everything starts to turn brown, we only appreciate programs and perks when they go away, and a saddening majority of the time we only truly appreciate great people after they have left.


Interestingly, the benefits of employees feeling valued and cared for extend far beyond getting good people to stay and perform well. People who feel valued at work report less stress (25% vs 56% of those who do not feel valued) and better overall psychological health (89% vs. 69%). Even more interesting in how feeling valued correlates to employees’ perception of their company and work culture:

 *percentage of respondents who agreed with the following statements Feel valued Do not feel valued Variance
Overall, I am satisfied with the growth and development opportunities offered by my employer 75% 10% -65%
I receive adequate monetary compensation for achievements and contributions at work 70% 17% -53%
Overall, I am satisfied with the recognition practices of my employer 75% 7% -68%
My employer regularly makes changes in response to employee feedback 56% 5% -51%

It’s not just about keeping good people; it’s about making good people better; it’s about improving how we feel about coming to work in the morning, and it’s about gaining a stronger sense of self and self-worth. If you want your company to be awesome, you need to start by being awesome. Want to feel more appreciated? Appreciate people more. Want something to change? Then you need to change what you do. Breathe deeply, appreciate it and use that breath to tell someone how much you value them.


Why your boss doesn’t trust you…

December 3 2007 day 53 - When stress does a nu...

My last post mentioned fear as a reason many change managers do not communicate well or soon enough. But fear is much more insidious than simply during change – it is the roadblock to trust in your organization.

It is amazing what the human mind and body can do. During times of distress it can shift blood from one area of the body to another more crucial area almost instantly, it can increase the effectiveness of our muscles and make us stronger for brief moments, it can focus our minds with laser like precision, and during times of extreme stress can make us completely forget nearly everything about experiences. And while many times these autonomous reactions serve us in very protective ways, they can also undermine positive outcomes. It can make us blind to other possibilities, unable to release a certain perspective, defensive in conversation, and illogical.

Whether they be physical stressors or psychological ones, the root of what causes these reactions is fear. In many physical examples, the fear could be of injury or even death.  In the psychological instances the cause of fear is much harder to pinpoint and what is more complex, sometimes the fear is self-manifested. Now, whether the fear is justifiable or not makes not one bit of difference to how our brain acts.  Fear, is fear, is fear; and our brains react the same way to fear regardless of the stimuli.

In a professional setting most fear is psychological fear.  The trouble is psychological fear is not external, so you can’t point to something and say “that is fear”.  Fear is internal, something causes fear in us and as such, is self-created.  Which is to say, when I am afraid there is something in me that fears the external stimuli. Perhaps it is the fear that I cannot handle what is about to come my way or perhaps it reminds us of something that contradicts our self-image.

That last one is important. This is often the source of defensiveness in most everyday professional conversations, a challenge to someone’s self-concept. As an example: I put forth an idea I worked hard on, someone says they think my idea is wrong, that means I am wrong, that my idea was stupid, that I was stupid, I do like to think of myself as a stupid person (self-concept), I am afraid I am stupid, I don’t like being reminded that I could be stupid, I don’t like that you reminded me I might be stupid, don’t call me stupid – issue your external response. Of course you can substitute any number of things you might be afraid of about yourself (unimportant, inexperienced, unlikeable, intolerant, disorganized, irresponsible, etc.) The fear no longer comes from someone actually calling you those things, but now comes from them reminding you of your fear that you are one of those things you do not want to be.

Defenses in and of themselves are not bad, at some point in our life they probably served us well, and if we encounter a tiger they may still serve us, but when we are defending ourselves from our own fears rather than a real threat, fear is our biggest obstacle. Without getting too technical, fear and stress produce cortisol in the body. Cortisol is like the lime to the tequila of adrenaline – it sets the stage for action. Contrary to popular belief, the “rush” we get from certain experiences (the tingly feeling, butterflies, taut muscles, etc.) is caused by cortisol, not adrenaline. The negative aspect of cortisol is it is VERY closely associated with stress – the more stress or fear you feel, the more cortisol your body produces. Cortisol also diminishes trust in our external environment, so it is a self-feeding loop in defensive situations. (This is the reason taking a break sometimes is a good conflict strategy.)

Oxytocin (no, not the pain-killer Oxycontin), on the other hand, is a stress relieving hormone that counteracts or suppresses cortisol production. Have you ever been feeling tons of stress and then someone gives you a warm hug or a sincere compliment and it seems to dissipate?  That is caused by the release of oxytocin. Oxytocin, in recent years, has become strongly associated with trust, love, compassion, and personal connectedness.mUnfortunately, professional behavior and love are not always things talked about in the same sentence. And let’s face it, hugging is not something a lot of environments encourage in the wake of sexual harassment possibilities. Most environments, in fact, are breeding grounds for stress and fear, and thus almost encourage distrust. The more stress or fear I feel, the less likely I am to trust – trust you, trust myself, trust my organization, trust my leaders, etc. If I do not have trust it is hard to respect others or be honest. And so the cycle goes.

Whether my fear is about me or about you, again, makes no difference in how we react.  It DOES, however, still elicit a self-protective response.  In stressful situations people rarely point to a fear they have about themselves. Enter the Fundamental Attribution Error. When things go wrong to me, I attribute it to reasons outside of me (it’s not MY fault)- when they go wrong for you, then we attribute it to a reason in you (it is YOUR fault). This is why sometimes the message is conveyed that your boss does not trust you, or perhaps, that you feel you do not trust others. Sometimes it might be a fear about themselves (or yourself) you are protecting yourself from. Maybe I fear that I am an incompetent leader and if something goes wrong on my team, that confirms I am not a good leader so I act in defense of that fear by not trusting my employees to do a good job…so I micromanage, require copious amounts of check-ins, over-monitor, over-meeting, over-reviews, over-discussion, overly rely on consensus (when it does not make sense), avoid delegating, etc.

Fear is the enemy of trust. Both practically and biologically. And if we are really being self-aware, how much of that fear is about us instead of about them? Are we committing the Fundamental Attribution Error? Are we simply protecting ourselves from our own fears of being incompetent? Insignificant? Unlikeable? Trust and Fear are not mutually compatible, you have to choose one or the other. And yes, you can choose to be more trusting, but that means confronting and challenging your own fear about yourself first.  What is it you really fear about yourself and how is that standing in your way regarding trust of others?

Change Communication

I’ve worked with a number of companies regarding change and one thing still boggles my mind – a fundamental misunderstanding of change adoption and how the change team’s progress relates to the general population of the organization.  And more specifically, how delaying communication until you have all the data effects change adoption.

While there are a number of things that can influence the length of time for adoption (complexity, scope, pervasiveness, size of audience, etc.) on thing that has a direct correlation to the speed of adoption is communication. The sooner you let people know change is coming, the faster you can expect adoption. You can also get feedback to address any issues you may not have considered before they become difficult to implement. If you wait too long, resistance seems to become monumental and adjusting anything based on feedback feels like a slap in the face for all the time you feel you have spent considering all options. But there is one perspective you never gave a voice until you were almost ready to roll out the change – theirs.

The Root Problem of the Typical Approach

On a two axis graph (we love those, don’t we?) with time being the horizontal and change progress being the vertical, the change team and change leader start near point zero on both.  As time increases the change team is formulating what the change will look like, how to configure it, shape it, what training is needed (sometimes), who is, etc.  So the line begins to rise as time increases.  We get to initial system testing, or final review and the change line is still climbing.  Then we roll it out.  The change progress for the team is high, but all of the people who just learned about this are staring at zero in terms of change progress. They have had not chance to understand the motivation, reason, impact, disruption, confusion, or anxiety this is going to cause.

What sometimes makes this even more anxiety producing is, even when the communication does begin, the volume is way to low and horribly infrequent. Some companies I have worked with send out a pamphlet with people’s check stubs and that was as far as it went.  Despite all the other issues with that form of communication, the fact that this was the ONLY time and method they communicated a major organizational change left most people struggling to fill in any gaps.  In fact, six months later, some people were still unaware that a change had taken place.

The Psychology of Change

For most change processes, the act of change is linear – you start here and move some levers, change some forms, maybe do some training, and then flip the switch and you are at the end of the change project.  For people, change is never linear. The below graphic depicts the standard understanding of the change curve for most people.

How quickly someone navigates through this curve depends on a number of things: the pervasiveness of the change, how impacted the person is, how long the previous system/process/dynamic was in place, perceived benefit to the new way, etc. But a big piece that is not addressed in the illustration above is the cause for the dip. The cause for denial, resistance, and hesitancy, is fear. We fear change, not a new concept I know but something you can’t just expect people to get over quickly. And when you delay your communication and are expecting them to adopt the change quickly (in comparison to how long the change team has had to absorb it,) under-communication is your enemy.

Here is how under-communication leads to increased resistance. The human brain wants the world to make sense and it will fill whatever void it has to for the world to make sense. (See Gestalt Psychology) Typically, because factual data is not playing a part in filling gaps (hence the gap), our brains do not run to what is most logical – it runs to what is self-preserving (ala Triune Brain Theory). Example: you are hiking down a trail and see a hole in ground that you cannot see into – do you stick your hand in there? Before I get to why not, does the hole have a bottom? Of course it does, because a bottomless hole does not make sense. So what do you fill it with? A $20 bill? Winning lottery ticket? Or is it something more sinister – a snake, spider, scorpion, varmint – all waiting to bite you?  In reality the most likely scenario, is the hole is empty. But our brains don’t go there.  We fill it with something negative that we need to protect ourselves against. The same things happens when there is a ‘hole’ in the communication or understanding of a change. And rather than wait for more information, people fill the gap. That is commonly called “gossip”. We want to fill that gap, we need to fill the gap, and we will usually fill it with something negative.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

The longer gossip festers, the harder it will be to correct it.  What is worse, is negative gossip can feed cynicism which then begins to feed negative gossip – and so the negative culture spiral ensues.  Now communication seems to breed its own resistance, anger, dismissal, and hesitation. This commonly occurs when organizations begin communicating after the negative gossip has started. And it causes most change managers to avoid communicating because it seemingly does no good – and in some instances – can derail the change process by giving a formal channel for high-influence individuals to voice their cynicism.  So if you start too late, yes, sometimes you might be better off just dropping the change in on people, but don’t expect people to like it, gravitate towards it, or accept it quickly. In fact, the best you can expect is mild compliance at that point – people who only do it because there is no other option (that is, IF you take the old method away.)

Start Your Own Gossip

Viral and teaser marketing tactics have been all the rave these days, and for good reason, they get people talking…even if sometimes all they are talking about is the ad and have no real knowledge of the product. Generating buzz about your change is a great way to begin communication. Primarily because it allows you three things right off the bat: no need for all the answers, feedback on possible early resistance, and early buzz. Now, obviously if the change IS negative in its impact (layoffs, pay cuts, etc.) you might want to formalize the message and opt for transparency, but for other changes such as a new technology, new procedure, change in product offering, etc. “viral” marketing can get you a lot of early traction and information. Imagine if Apple put out an ad that said, “get ready to change the world again..” And nothing more, maybe some elusive photos that don’t really show anything.  Trust me, people would be talking.

Doing It Right

Be Early: Even if you are vague.  If you want adoption, start before the gossip gets out of your hands.  Better to have curiosity chatter than negative chatter

Be Everywhere: Information rarely travels through a single medium.  Even if your formal communication channels are usually via one medium, trust me, people get their information elsewhere.  Email, website, intranet, twitter, Facebook, blogs, closed radio circuits piping Musak to your company restrooms, hold music, newsletters, bulletin boards, etc.  For viral messages, I would actually avoid all company meetings. To generate buzz, keep it unidirectional at first.  Coordinate your message releases so they are consistent but make sure you are not relying on one channel.

Be Frequent: Set a schedule and pace yourself to ramp up close to formal announcements.

Be Receptive: Once you plan your formal announcement, provide room for Q&A.  Communication by its very definition is not one-direction so simply telling people something is not communicating…it is informing. Informing has its place in change but do not confuse it with communication.  If you want to communicate change, you need to listen when people talk.  Resistance is simply data. And like all data, it is worthy of analysis. Some data is great, some is not so great, but ignoring it just forces people to fill in the gaps.

Be Transparent-ish: Don’t lie, and don’t hide things that everyone will learn anyway.  If there is a reason you’ve decided to go one direction v another, being honest, even when people don’t always like it, is better than destroying any trust people have in you or your organization.  Once the trust is gone, they don’t even listen anymore since they assume you are lying or manipulating information.  That does not mean always telling them everything, but obscuring the truth is not going to help people trust this change is the best thing for them.

Be Frequent: Doing one information blast is not going to help you get adoption. And don’t assume communication should stop after you have rolled out the change, if anything you should communicate more.

Be A Safety Net: You and your change team are the experts on whatever the change is.  If you want people to catch up to you, don’t assume training and education will happen instantly. Coach people, stay with them, and help them be successful. Telling someone to figure it out on their own usually results in heavy resistance and a gravitation back to what is comfortable. If you want them to make the leap to something new, you have to position yourself to make it okay and to catch them when (yes, when, not if) they fall.

Be Firm: There is a difference between helping smooth the transition for people and allowing the population to drive the change.  At a certain point, someone needs to be firm. Get input and modify implementation – yes.  Deviate from your vision and intended outcomes – no.


Change is hard, not only to implement but to adjust to. People feel uncomfortable in silence. If you are unsure about that, start your next meeting with 45 seconds of silence…and see how long it takes for people to start whispering under their breaths to their coworkers. People fill silence to make themselves feel more comfortable.  This is the essential importance of communication during change – if you aren’t having the conversations, they will.

The Costs of Not Delegating (…completely)

The management credo has always been “delegate, delegate, delegate” yet many managers, both tenured and new, seem to have a great deal of difficulty doing this.  Most of the time, it has nothing to do with not knowing how; throughout our life we have delegated tasks to our siblings, friends, and team mates.  We know how, we just don’t we become a manager.  The simple reason is FEAR.  The increased fear that comes with being responsible but not in control.  So what do we do? We keep control rather than let it go.  Seems like a normal reaction, but it may be working against us in more ways than we realize.

The personal toll

This is usually the first and most obvious place the pain of retaining control shows up.  We have too much on our plates and the first thing someone always suggests is to delegate some of it.  All the personal balancing and time tools in the world will not allow you to do more than you are capable within a given amount of time.  Yet, rather than delegate, we hold tighter to those items and insist (mostly to convince ourselves) that we can do it.  This again, goes back to fear.  The fear perpetuated by feeling overwhelmed in the moment.  “If I were to let go of anything, surely the wheels would come off and things would fail, and people would see I am in over my head, and I would get fired, and the job market is too bad to be looking for a job, and unemployment won’t pay enough to feed my family, and I’ll lose my car, and then I won’t be able get a better job, and I’ll be worthless.”  Sound like a logic train you take?  No?  Well, maybe that one is just me but chances are you have thought it would end in your own personal disaster.

The other part of this fear spiral is the excuse we tell ourselves that “it would take longer to explain than it would to just do it.”  So how is that working for you at 1am when you are still doing the things you could have explained?  The problem there is we don’t have a clear articulation of the outcome either and we are really making our best guesses as we go along…and we don’t trust someone else to make the same guesses, especially when we cannot describe the outcome we want.  Touching on yet another fear…that we may not know what we are trying to do.  So for goodness sake, “don’t ask me about the outcome – the last thing I want is for you to remind me that I have no clue.”

There is also the excuse we firmly believe and that is no one can do it as well as I can.  And here you may be right…but then again, if that is the case and you avoid delegation because of it, then it you will always be right which only continues the cycle.  The other side of this one is you may be wrong.  There may be someone better at this than you.  This can be scary, too.  “If someone is better at this than me, why would they keep me?  I can’t give someone the chance to show me up.”  It’s a vicious cycle.  And that is just the personal toll it takes on you.

Your employees are unhappy

Despite the lingering industrial revolution belief (which was in the late 1800s and early 1900s – yeah, over 100 years ago,) people would not rather sit and do nothing all day.  We are curious and naturally seek challenges.  Imagine this scenario…you are placed in a room with a chair and a table, on the table is a partially completed jigsaw puzzle and the remaining piece.  Given no specific directions other than “make yourself comfortable” chances are you would start working on the puzzle within a few minutes. And this is not my half-baked theory, this experiment has been repeated over and over with the same result.  Check out Dan Pink’s Drive if you don’t believe me.  Given no incentive, people still seek out challenge.

By not delegating your are actually decreasing engagement.  Actually giving your employees something to do makes them feel valued.  And you can’t just delegate the easy stuff.  Again, people want challenge and the opportunity to get better at what they do, they don’t want something simple all the time.  Besides boring them to death, by doing so you are also limiting your employees’ capability to do more things…and thus limiting what you feel you can delegate.  Stretch assignments are things that may need a little additional support at first but result in higher engagement, increased self-esteem, and more productive employees.  And there is also a more subtle emotional component to delegating.  Delegating stretch assignments raises the degree of trust between you and your employee, which can have all sorts of positive effects.  For instance, when employees feel more trusted they are more likely to make decisions when you are not around or unavailable so projects do not stall out during your absence.  They also end to act on things they see instead of waiting to be told.

The organization suffers

This is the trickle down cost to not delegating and it stems from everything above.  Things take longer, less gets done, and people are not looking for solutions…they are simply waiting to be told what to do.  If employees are not challenged and trusted to make their own decisions, they tend to opt on the safe side of not making a potentially “wrong” one…so they wait.  And usually the safe bet is also to do what has always been accepted so very little innovation comes from a non-delegating culture.  Employee retention can also suffer resulting in high turnover rates.  Career development ranks as one of the top drivers of employee engagement.

Efficiency and improvements stall

This one is a little more obscure in its relationship to delegation and perhaps has more to do with trust and control than delegation directly…but they are all inter-related.  When employees are delegated a responsibility, and I mean truly delegated (ownership, authority, autonomy, resources) they tend to come up with better ways to do things.  If I have control over my project and then get to end my day when it is done, I work faster.  Eventually, I start thinking of better, more efficient ways to do things as it allows me more freedom.  And if you want to brush up more on the power of autonomy (one of the motivation principles in Drive) you might want to take a look at Why Work Sucks: and how to fix it by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson.

Long term, everyone wins…short-term everyone wins.  The pain is dealing with the fear of not having control.  And that my friend is all up to you.  The hardest thing to realize is that you are the one standing in the way of your team’s performance.  The next hardest thing is doing something new to change it.

Are Millenials getting a bad rap?

“The Coddled Generation”, “The Tethered Generation”, “Generation Why?” No doubt the Millenials have had their share of negatively connoted euphemisms, but are they getting an unfair rap in the workplace. I think they are, and as a GenX-er, I’ve had my share of bumps with them, so this is not a message in self-defense, nor is it simply an article in advocacy. It is just time to look at Millenials for what they bring to balance out the workplace, instead of how they are not like “us”.

First, a comment about stereotypes versus generalizations. This article discusses generalizations of a group but it is not meant to be used as a tool to pigeon-hole someone of a certain age. Generalizations used to help us be more effective can be beneficial, but stereotyping someone “they are this way” is a negative use and tends towards a downward spiral of relationship tensions.

Each generational peer group has positives and negatives. The World War II generation tends to be very loyal, steady, and reliable. Baby Boomers tend to be very personally accomplished and experienced, they have seen and done a lot with a great deal of focus. GenX has the largest percentage of entrepreneurs of the 4 generations in the workplace and tend to be very independent and adept at change. Millenials tend to be very inclusive and are great networkers and multitaskers. But the flipside of all these positives are the negatives.  Those in the WWII generation can be perceived as technologically averse, and inadaptable to change.  Baby Boomers are perceived as seeing credibility only within their peer group and resistant to those who have not “put in their time”.  GenXers are seen as organizational trouble-makers always looking to challenge authority and break rules.  Millenials are perceived as scattered and overly reliant on instructions.

See, we all have our positives and negatives. Rather than judge Millenials for what we perceive to be negatives, recognize where it comes from and perhaps there can be understanding instead of judgment. Millenials are enormously creative if provided safety from a “wrong” answer. They can balance a number of tasks if given clear expectations and freedom to manage their time (lest we forget they managed school, ballet, volleyball, homework, and hanging out with friends in any given day.) Instead of expecting them to be more like us, search for what they need to be more successful. It may start with more guidance (frustrating for a GenXer), or mean including them in a strategy meeting (difficult for Baby Boomers), or being okay with them using slang or TXTing language occasionally (difficult for WWII generations).

Millenials bring a lot of positives to the work place and they are still finding their way. They are a part of your team, include them, ask their ideas, give them some rope to explore, and the freedom to manage their time. They will thank you for it and prove to be a more engaged part of your team as a result.

Work, trust, life, choices, and fear

Work does not have to suck.

You should trust the people you work with

You should be able to live your life without painful imbalance

and you make choices every day that determine the outcome.  If your work sucks, you don’t trust the people you work with, and your life feels out of balance, you are making a choice today to keep it as it is.  A choice that we do not like is still a choice.  Take your life back, repair the trust, and find passion in what you do.  All it takes is a decision today to make a change.

“Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune….[to] rather bear those ills we have, or to fly to those that we know not of…that is the question.”

Are you letting fear of the unknown control your choices?

Undermining Trust with your Attendance Policy?

Trust is one of those things in life that is similar to air, once it is gone, it is all you can think about. Each of us build it and give it in different ways and there are tons of articles and books out there that discuss how to develop it, maintain it, and rebuild it.  I’m not going to spend time on all that today.  This is just a short entry based on something I heard on the way to work earlier this week and it really stood out to me.  It led me to one inescapable fact, most attendance or vacation policies undermine the degree of trust in the workplace.  Let me explain.

As I drove in one morning the radio station I was listening to awarded a caller concert tickets, backstage passes, and the full VIP treatment for a major concert event that was happening the next day starting at 2p.  They asked if she could get the day off and the caller responded simply, “I will have to figure something out.”  To which the DJ replied “you’re gonna have to call in sick is what you’re gonna do!”  And I started thinking, why?  Why do we run first to a complete lie?  She is not sick, she has no plans of being sick, and even if she did feel a little feverish that is not why she wasn’t going to work.  Is it not acceptable to use a granted day off for whatever we need?  And I started thinking back to a recent employer I worked for.

While I worked there I had vacation days and sick days.  Now, I did not quite understand the difference other than from a payroll perspective: one set of days was accrued each week and the other set was granted at the start of each year of my employment.  I was very explicitly explained however, that vacation days had to be planned at least two weeks in advance and sick days could only be used if I called the morning of my expected absence.  This made absolutely no sense to me.  What if something came up on Monday that I knew was going to prevent me from working on Thursday?  I would not be granted a vacation day since it was within the two week period, and I could not tell people I would be “sick” on Thursday so we could plan around it.  Instead, the policy was enforced such that anytime that happened, it caused a great deal of stress amongst my team members because it totally screwed up the schedule for the day I was absent with no notice.  This just seemed ridiculous and if I was honest and said, “hey, I have a free nights stay at Vail for Wednesday night so I am going to stay and ski on Thursday.”  I was told that was not an acceptable absence and I would not be paid.  WTH?!  So instead, I lied and called from the Vail ski lift and had to pretend I was sick – “[cough, cough], ugh…I don’t feel well and I don’t think I can make it.”  And I just prayed someone on the ski lift did not talk about the snow conditions loud enough to alert my boss.

What made this even more ridiculous was I had to lie on Friday, too.  I had to tell them how I felt much better and it must have just been a 24 hour thing.  I mean, really, how often does your cold only last 24 hours and then you are fine? Nevermind the sunburn you happen to have on the day you return.  So not only was the policy designed to make me lie, it encouraged me to keep lying!  I even went so far once to bring in a walking stick for a week because I made up that I sprained my ankle so badly I could not drive in one day (I think my wife and I decided to have a Spring picnic that day.)

As I have matured and learned more about employee engagement, honesty, and truly supportive cultures (and the benefits of all those) it simply baffles me that we start this dishonesty with the whole concept of “sick” days.  As if the only acceptable reason you can miss work is if you are ill.  We will pay you if you are sick and doing nothing but not if you are out enjoying your life.  It’s as if we only want to compensate people for being miserable instead of happy.

My invitation to you is to look at some of your policies of how you “police”, “babysit”, and “parent” your employees.  Are they creating an environment of honesty and trust, or do employees get rewarded for being dishonest?  What kind of culture do you want?  If it is trust, then model that.  If you are getting the results you want, then who cares where they are.  Your responsibility as a manager and leader is to encourage results, not be a “home room teacher” granting hall passes.