The CEO of MillerKnoll recently made news—and ignited a social media firestorm—when she rebuked a staff member for asking if they would lose their bonuses. Andi Owen is seen in a video of a town hall meeting saying, “Don’t ask about ‘what are we going to do if we don’t get a bonus?’ Get the **** $26 million,” and telling her employees to leave pity city. The tenor of her remarks struck many as tone-deaf, particularly when Owen received over 3 million dollars in bonuses last year.
In the wake of the Great Resignation, there has been a shift in the workforce to a more employee-focused model. One undeniable principle is coming to the forefront: we need to abandon an us versus them mentality. This applies to supervisors and employees alike. When leaders view their staff as the enemy instead of an ally, and vice versa, trust is sabotaged, efficiency is thwarted, and both outcomes suffer.
There are two key aspects managers can focus on to foster a collaborative environment in the workforce.
1. Cast vision. Your employees need to be connected to something larger than themselves—and any petty disagreements. Articulate the values and mission of your organization and help them see how their work furthers meaningful work. Employees at all levels of your organization need to understand and be invested in your mission.
2. Show empathy. Empathy bridges divides. It allows individuals to appreciate the challenges and pressures one another are facing. Taking the time to enter into someone else’s experience and show solidarity builds trust and knits organizations together.
Owen has since apologized, seeking to repair damage and rebuild relationships. Through thoughtful actions at the outset, you can avoid the need for damage control—and keep from being a Twitter hashtag for all the wrong reasons.