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David FullerI recently heard of a leader within an organization who was treating his assistant much like a slave.

Not only was the leader verbally demeaning to the assistant, he would often bring his dog to work and expect his assistant clean up the mess his dog left in the building.

Working in a non-unionized environment, the employee had to comply or risk losing favour with the boss and possibly his position.

Thankfully, it’s rare to come across a business owner who believes they’re doing their employees a huge favour by just giving them a job.

It’s true that we need to create jobs for people to ensure a stable society. However, the North American economy is humming and unemployment is at an all-time low, which means most people who want jobs can easily find them.

Nevertheless, an attitude implying that we’re someone special because we own or run a business and therefore can unjustly use that power to the detriment of others is a serious mistake.

In fact, we owe our employees a great deal, including:

A safe environment: The focus on safety in some industries is at an all-time high, yet creating a safe space to work includes more than just physical safety.

As leaders, we should be looking to create environments where our employees feel safe. This means we need to work to curtail drama, including bullying and psychological manipulation.

We must protect employees from harmful external influences and ensure that our people feel they can speak out when they think they might be in harm’s way or are treated unjustly.

Fair pay: Many regions have set minimum wages that business owners must pay employees. However, owners need to be aware of what a living wage for their area is and strive to pay wages that will provide their employees a decent standard of living without having to take on multiple jobs.

Unfortunately, most minimum wage systems built by government don’t take into account that many of the lowest paid workers are teenagers, who are supported by their parents. When minimum wages are bumped, it’s the owners who suffer at the benefit of youth.

A more equitable system might include minimum wages based on age. Most business owners I know would love to pay their full-time employees more but are only marginally profitable themselves, and many times take home less than their top paid employees.

Waste not, want not and your business will profit
When you need to find savings in your business, look at the areas of systems, energy, people and inventory

Leadership: I recently had a business owner tell me about seeing one of his employees working with inadequate shoes. He realized that the employee couldn’t afford suitable shoes, so he took off his shoes and gave them to his employee. This is a great example of leadership.

In addition to extraordinary examples of leadership, most employees need leaders to provide a vision of where the company is going. They need to understand their roles and responsibilities within the company and they must know that everyone within the organization is held to to the same level of accountability.

Consideration of their future: A good employer must consider his employees’ futures. This means they should introduce long-term strategies that ensure the financial stability in retirement for employees who will work for them for years.

It also means that when employees aren’t happy working for them, they engage the employees in the tough conversations that encourage them to move on.

Employees are the backbone of our organizations; we would not be successful in fulfilling our mission and vision without them.

But employees also need to understand that running an organization is stressful, and there are many challenges of leadership that are never seen or fully comprehended by the average person.

While we should be able to expect that fair transactions take place between employees and employers, we should also know we have obligations that go beyond the law.

Great leaders understand that respectful treatment of employees makes a huge difference in enabling them to contribute to the advancement of the society around us.

David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. email [email protected].

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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