Creating a Positive Work Environment

By Alan L. Olsen, CPA, MBA (tax)
Managing Partner
Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen and Co., LLP

“BEEP…BEEP…BEEP…BE-.” Hit the snooze on the alarm for the fifth time. Shower. Breakfast. Read the latest news headline on your iPad. Race off to work to begin another day in the cubicle.

Since most people see their lives as highly repetitious, how do you create an environment where your employees have the desire to excel each day and add value to your company? It is important to create a positive work environment within your business.

Our firm has received the recognition of “Best Place to Work”. How does a business owner create an environment that allows for such recognition? You have to start internally. If you can create a firm where your employees feel valued and where team members motivate one another, employees won’t dread coming to work every day. Of course there are debates about whether intrinsic or extrinsic motivation is the prime motivator, but my philosophy is to use a dose of each to create a positive work environment.

Where do you start? Start with your management team. If you can spark enthusiasm with those at the top, it is more likely to work it’s way down. The following may help as you work towards creating a positive work environment within your business:

1. Compliment Employees. “Excellent job” and “Thank-you for your consistency” are words that employees love to hear. A couple of sincere complimentary words can provide motivation to an employee. When an employee understands that they add value to a business, they will want to continue improving and produce quality work. Uncovering intrinsic motivation within an individual can have great benefits.

2. Provide Constructive Criticism. Look at the glass as half full. Of course, no one of is perfect, which leaves plenty of room for improvement, but instead of pinpointing an employee in the hall and blowing up until your blue in the face, try a different approach. Offer them constructive criticism. If a particular employee can’t seem to get anything off their desk, bring up the problem and ask them how they are going to solve it, rather than degrading them. Placing accountability on the shoulders of an employee will help them receive criticism and develop solutions for improvement.

3. Organize firm unity events. As the Managing Partner of a CPA Firm, I can attest first hand that until April 15th, the first months of the year can be grueling. Our firm hosts an annual “after tax season party” every year for employees, to let them know that we appreciate their hard work. On a week day, we close the office and take the staff to the beach, a local recreation facility or another venue to relax and get to know one another better. This outing provides an opportunity for the staff to grow closer and have memorable experiences. I have found that the feedback is generally positive when organizing firm outings and gives employees an experience to look forward to as reward for their hard work.

4. Implement a bonus program. Employees put in hours of work, so why not implement a bonus plan to reward them? Rewarding employees for exceeding their job expectations and for bringing in additional revenue with new clients, provides incentives for improvement. Hold annual meetings to let employees know of your firm’s bonus program and to create enthusiasm for it. It can be as simple as offering a couple extra hundred dollars to their paycheck or receiving 10% of firm profits from a new client account that they bring in.

5. Respect. This is a key component of having a positive work environment. If employees lack respect for one another, odds are that your business is going to struggle. You can’t build something in two different directions. Encourage your management team to respect other employees. In creating a positive work environment, respect is key.

Having a positive work environment can change attitudes and bring smiles. Exercise your leadership skills as you create a positive environment within your business.

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