We Aim to Please

As professional teachers we enjoy what we do—and yes, we feel satisfaction when our students respond enthusiastically to our efforts—especially after a class is over and we receive complimentary survey remarks from them; however, studies today show that we especially appreciate acknowledgement and validation from our bosses. Colleges and universities spend energy, time and money to attract the best and the brightest, so why do we grow dissatisfied? Is it because we get bored with our jobs, or leave for a higher salary? The answer is a surprising and resounding NO; rather, we leave or become disenchanted because we have not emotionally connected with our bosses. Research further suggested that teachers are not looking for generic flattery or even added course assignments; instead, we hunger for authentic, empathetic relationships with our bosses—and this connection is the key ingredient that motivates us to strive to be successful and productive (Cole, 2009).

Make Us Smile

After reading success stories by industry leaders and economists, studies showed that it behooves our bosses to find ways to make us smile. How? Send us an e-mail from time to time, simply to recognize our unique effect on the school—such as the occasion we agreed to assist a new co-worker build content into their course shell, or how we actively engaged in virtual meetings and asked meaningful questions, or how well we mastered a new technology roll out. We like hearing this…as often as possible—not only during our annual performance review, but whenever warranted. Further, comments made cannot be empty words or canned responses, we’ll know it—but rather genuine, sincere, and targeted acknowledgements and validations (N/A, 2009). Students expect no less from us. There is always something meaningful that makes us stand out that can be shared. Comments should “focus on results and accomplishments as well as the recognition of the unique strengths of that individual employee” (Welch, 2008, p. 14, para.6).

Help us to feel valued. Here are a few ways.

  • Bosses should respond promptly to concerns or issues we raise. If they need to get back with us, that’s fine—simply let us know that our issues matter and they will be addressed in due course. Of course, bosses are busy people, too—and some things require time to be appropriately addressed—just don’t leave us hanging.
  • Bosses should share new recommendations that we make with “higher ups” and let us know when something is being considered--or implemented that was our idea. Who knows—perhaps it will become future school policy? However, bosses shouldn’t pass along these ideas as their own to gain kudos with their boss and ignore from whom the suggestion originated.
  • Because we want to please our bosses, they should give us constructive feedback throughout the year—as much as they can--so that we hear them “listening” to us.
  • Bosses should give us a “heads up” when changes are in the making rather than spring them on us at the last minute. When this is done, it conveys to us they value our time as well.
  • When we, teachers, present our research at professional conferences, bosses should be our advocate, take pride in the fact that we are improving our academic standing among colleagues and networking, and perhaps seek out financial reimbursement assistance on our behalf from the university for expenses we incur—even if it’s partial reimbursement. If a few faculty colleagues are not following protocol—such as prepping a class correctly—it’s better for them to reach out specifically to the individuals who are not accurate in their prep work and deal with them, rather than send out a mass e-mail to all of us alerting us to issues not being addressed. When they do this, those among us who were correct are left wondering if it’s “us” not doing it right—and this creates undue stress within the ranks.
  • Bosses should help us to grow with the university—and whenever a promotion or a raise in pay is warranted, make sure that our name is on the list.

Professional Insights

A friend and professional colleague, Donna Gottschall, owner of Rains Group HR, LLC provided sage insight about how to bridge the gap between the unhappy employee and the happy employee. During Gottschall’s 25-plus years’ experience within the HR industry revealed that when matching people with companies or schools, the number one observation is employees want to be appreciated. It’s part of the culture. While money is important to the under 30-year-old employee because they want to buy stuff--cars, homes, electronics, and tangible items—as we grow older, benefits become more important, but still not as important as being made to feel that our role is important, and that we add value and contribute to our organization. In the over 30-year-old employee segment—like me, we tend to be more interested in job satisfaction—the pinnacle of Maslow’s Pyramid. When people in this age group were asked about the most enjoyable job they ever had, from high school to present day, 95% of the time they stated it was a job where they liked their boss. This rang true from McDonalds’ jobs they held, to mowing grass, to their current teaching position.

In Sum--How to Make a Real Difference

Throughout this article, a very simple solution was described on how to better ensure employee satisfaction and motivation—and bosses, it’s about making time to connect—not invade. Teachers generally do not leave schools or companies (these are merely buildings or websites), we leave our leaders. Make no mistake--we are essential to our college, university, or organization—and our students need us as much as we need them; still, we do not blossom in our role without managerial support and validation. Consider the myriad of financial and talent resources expended by our schools to search, interview, hire, and train. The solution for building an enduring success is a simple one--invest in the talent already on board, validate us and remember us—and what we have already accomplished--together. Bosses, are you listening?

References

Cole, T. (2009). Commitment to employees crucial. Grand Rapids Business Journal, 27(11), 24.

N/A. (2009). Job dissatisfaction doesn't 'go away' even during a recession. Hudson Valley Business Journal, 19(37), 16.

Welch, J. (2008). The real reasons employees leave, and how to keep the best. Business Journal (Central New York). February 22, (16), 11.

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About the Authors

G. Stan Reeley, Ph.D. ​ &Mary Ann Reeley, M.B.A.