My eldest daughter used to cry over the fact that she hadn't been invited to her parents' wedding—not understanding that she came along after the nuptials. So, my wife and I have mused aloud about holding another ceremony one day so our daughter can finally can see her parents get wed. It would be good for our marriage, too—after all, recalling the bold promises we made to each other on our wedding day can inspire us to do more of what it takes to live happily ever after.
Unfortunately, time and money are likely to prevent us from renewing our vows for a long while. But there's nothing to stop bosses and their employees from renewing theirs.
Yes, I'm aware that the vast majority of PROFIT readers aren't betrothed to a "direct report." (If you are, I wish you the best of luck.) But great benefits should accrue to companies whose managers and staff treat their working arrangement like a marriage and exchange vows.
There are several parallels between the two unions. In business and marriage, the individuals spend many of their waking hours together. They're partners in an effort to build something bigger and better than exists now, whether a household or a company. Many are unhappy with their relationships, but can't bring themselves to address the issue. More than 40% of these relationships end in divorce.
One noteworthy difference between the two arrangements is that most managers and employees make no vows to one another. Sure, they sign employment contracts and observe labour laws, but these agreements merely obligate one party or the other to maintain a minimum standard of behaviour. Why not aspire to something better?
Having managers and employees exchange wedding-like vows at the outset of their partnership and at least annually thereafter could be a catalyst for high employee performance. In the absence of such vows, managers and their employees expose too much of their relationship to the harsh winds of business; communication is inconsistent, goals conflict, problems fester, confidence and trust waver.
Compare that scenario to one in which employer and employee mutually commit to follow a shared set of principles and prescriptions that foster a productive, long term relationship. To wit:
- We won't ask of each other what we wouldn't ask of ourselves.
- We will give each other positive feedback at every opportunity.
- We will promptly share constructive criticism of one another.
- We will alert each other to our respective challenges when they arise, and seek each other's counsel.
- We will not let any problems between us fester.
I think you'll agree that bosses and employees who operate according to such promises will enjoy a more perfect union. And when the people who form the most crucial relationship within a company operate so harmoniously, business bliss is much more likely to follow.