A Little Respect, Please

Posted by on Jul 5, 2011 | No Comments

Jim Riggleman quit his dream job because he was “disrespected.” Riggleman was the manager of the Washington Nationals baseball franchise. He took the last place Nationals from division cellar dwellers to contenders. Just after winning 11 of 12 games (including a sweep of my Seattle Mariners) he resigned.

For the last two years he’s been working on one year interim contracts. He made the Nationals respectable, but they were unwilling to respect him by giving him a longer term contract. After failing to negotiate an extension he said, “I’m too old to be disrespected.”

Sadly enough, respect is often cheap to give away to those who merit it but it’s hoarded by managers who treat it like like precious gems. I’d like to share a few examples of giving it away.

The former CFO of my small, but significant, division of a multi-national company left last week for health reasons. It would have been easy to give her a standard plaque but the team gave her a unique gift that reflects her interests and reputation. One of her loves is cooking and many company events were graced with food that she had baked for the occasion. Her co-workers put together a cookbook with personal recipes, some that had been shared during her long tenure at the company. A unique gift, and a sign of great respect.

Sometimes figuring out unique ways to show appreciation is just a matter of paying attention. When I was an Air Force Captain and airfield manager in Germany in the late 80’s our American TV was limited to one channel, the Armed Forces Network, which played news and a limited selection of programs usually six months behind their US release dates. The Internet, in its primitive form, was probably not even in the dictionary.

One day my hard working chief dispatcher said, “I’d kill for an hour of MTV.”  With the help of my brother back in the US, a month later I gave him a VCR tape with six hours of MTV.

When I managed a systems development group I tried to do something for special occasions to show respect and appreciation. On the birthday of each team member we did something related to them. When a programmer from Louisiana had a birthday we cooked beignets, a special treat familiar to anyone who’s spent time in New Orleans. It was a mess of deep fat fryers and powdered sugar—but a measure of respect for a valued person. When our programmer from Iowa had his birthday it was, of course, corn dogs.

Because the central technology of our division revolves around GPS I tied it into a celebration for the completion of a major project. I gave each team member the coordinates of a local recreational site (but not the name) with an effort to tie the site into their interests. The race car aficionado got coordinates for a local indoor track and the high school baseball star was assigned the location of a rec facility with a batting cage.

RidingtheDuck030We gathered at a local pizza joint where each reported on what they had found at their assigned coordinates. I gave them the option of where they’d like to spend the afternoon. The creative bunch thought outside the box and chose a different option: we rode The Ducks through downtown Seattle. More expensive than six hours of MTV or a batch of beignets, but major achievements rate bigger celebrations.

According to a study by the American Management Association the cost of replacing an employee can run from 25% to 200% of their annual salary. Sometimes keeping the people who are doing a great job for you is about one little thing: a little respect.