Try Caring About People

Writers including Eric J. Kos, one of the owners of the Alameda Sun, and Katherine Schwartz, the executive director of the Alameda Family Services League recently wrote appreciation for businesses focusing less on making money while overlooking workers. They encouraged changing the focus to people.  

I recently went on a tour of Semifreddi’s in Alameda, a bakery sellng bread and pastry to the Bay Area. There were about 15 of us on the tour led by Tom Frainier an owner of the bakery. He prepped us outside and had us put on hairnets. We were told before we arrived that we had to be dressed appropriately; we had to wear long pants, long-sleeved tops, no jewelry and no buttons. We were going to watch bread be made and we had to show respect for the makers and their products.  

On two occasions, Frainier pointed out new equipment that had been purchased. He noted that one, at the cost of more than $1 million, was to replace work that employees had historically done by hand. Some had suffered shoulder damage on this assignment. 

Out of respect for the employees (and to save on worker’s comp claims) the company invested in this machine. Many times on the tour, Frainier cited the employees and it was evident they were listened to and respected. 

During one stop, Frainier asked our group, all business owners, the three most important things to running a successful business. People called out factors, but Frainier indicated that in his view, we were wrong. The three most important factors for him are, “1. Happy employees; 2. Happy employees; and 3. Happy employees.”

Paying attention to people caught my attention. I have often spoken in my column about my concern about diminishing human interaction. We don’t have conversations or time with each other as much anymore.  

I thought about a client who mentioned that many of people on her team at work are constantly interrupted by the manager when they are presenting at a meeting. He cites his own views. The workers are angry at his behavior and feel not listened to. As a result, the morale and motivation were low. This man does not recognize that he is losing good input from his staff. I encouraged her to talk to him and she said she has on many occasions.  

I have heard many stories about decisions that management makes to increase business, overlooking often the consequences to the workers. Many are penalized when they need to leave work if a school calls indicating they have a sick child. Others talk about seating arrangements at work where they do not have their own space because it is less expensive for the business to design open areas.  

People matter. Wanting to be listened to matters. Wanting to be respected matters. There is a good chance the business would produce even more if this were taken into account.  

 

Dr. Natalie Gelman is an Alameda-based therapist. Submit questions to drnataliegelman@gmail.com or through her website, www.drnataliegelman.com.