Overcoming Obstacles

April 16, 2014

By Sarah Marshall, '15

Dr. Jennifer Robin, assistant professor of business, explored ways to improve workplaces despite challenges faced by employers.

Robin noted a great workplace is all about relationships. Employees have to trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do, and enjoy the people they work with. In order for employees to trust the company, they have to believe that the company promotes credibility, respect, and fairness. Credibility is how the employees feel about their manager; respect is what the employees think their manager feels about them; and fairness is having an even playing field.

She compared building trust to bringing a significant other breakfast in bed. The first time someone brings breakfast to bed, the significant other will ask, “What do you want?” The second time, they’ll ask, “What did you do?” The third time, they’ll say, “Really? Really? This is happening every day?” As the days wear on, they’ll become less and less suspicious of your actions and grow to accept your kindness. Companies face the same suspicion when they begin making valuable changes to their workplace. 

Getting employees to take pride in their work requires them to believe that they are making a difference and that their work is meaningful. Show them how they are changing people’s lives, and they will realize the value of their work. Having employees enjoy the people they work with requires the company to see people being themselves and encouraging that individualism. In this way, employees feel like a welcome addition to the company team.

“Excuses are expected,” said Robin. “We realized there wasn’t much difference between an excuse and an apology; they’re both used when someone is feeling uncomfortable. You have to turn the excuses into question marks and figure out what’s behind the excuse and how to use it to make your workplace even better.” 

Want to know more? Robin has co-authored a book with Michael Burchell, “No Excuses: How You Can Turn Any Workplace into a Great One.”

The University’s MBA association sponsored the lecture.