Happy employees are wearing flip-flops

As a leader, you want highly engaged and motivated employees. Not only is this clearly an attribute of successful companies with high profits; it just makes the job easier. Work weeks feel shorter and problems somehow get taken care of without being escalated. Read this fable of how Larry Mossely learned that if his employees wanted to wear flip-flops, he had better listen.

Larry had spent years as a super star sales person working for Paper Plus, a leading office supply company. He was known for closing big deals and had an office full of recognition trophies and souvenirs from the many award trips won over the years. He was promoted many times to larger assignments and often asked to join management ranks.

The time came when the competition of the next big deal was not enough; he took his first leadership role. He was managing a rag-tag group of under-performing sales people. While a little nervous at the start, he quickly learned that all his sales skills helped him as a manger. He could ask his staff questions to learn what motivated them and what they needed to be successful, just as he had done with his customers. Soon, Larry’s team was winning awards and all of the contests.

So what was next for Larry? The CEO of Paper Plus decided Larry was destined for the corporate office. It took six months to convince Larry to pack up, move to Los Angeles, and begin riding the elevator to the 42nd floor, to work in the land of cubicles. This was a new world. No lunches with customers, no Monday morning sales team call to rally the troops for the week ahead, no strategy planning sessions about how to close the next big customer.

He had inherited a sweat shop – over 50 employees with very specific jobs, all doing tasks no one wanted to do, but were critical to the business. No one was going to win an award from the CEO in this department. They completed forms, entered them into a computer and ran reports. (Well, it was a little more exciting than that, but not much.)

Larry found ways to automate much of what this group had done in the past. He hired some bright young people to help, and soon the CEO did take notice. The group had become an efficient machine, now requiring less than 25 employees, who were all happy and proud of their accomplishments. The entire executive team began asking the group for help and giving them top projects.

As this team became more and more important to key decisions, the hours became very long. The team was often up late into the night preparing for meetings the next day. While they received a lot of praise, the swelling number requests became drudgery. Everyone looked forward to Friday because it was casual day. Wearing jeans to work made that one day every week feel like it went by so much faster.

The team enjoyed that day so much that they began to asking for a change in the casual day policy. The policy forbade open toe shoes. They asked for that to be changed so they could wear flip flops. Larry heard the request, but it seemed unrealistic. This team interfaced with the highest level executives throughout the week, including Fridays.

If this was really important, he thought, they would ask for something bigger. This was the most respected department in the entire company. They could have probably gotten a quarterly off-site meeting in the Bahamas if they had asked. But flip flops just wasn’t possible in the office. He was sure they understood the foolishness of this request.

Then came the fateful Friday. The entire team came to work wearing flip-flops and sent a representative into Mr. Mossely’s office to tell him they were either going to get to wear flip flops, or they were walking out.

Shocked, Larry immediately called for the team to gather in the large conference room. He started asking questions (just as he had done early in his sales career with his customers). He learned that the team felt under-appreciated. They were working long hours on significant projects, but they rarely earned formal, individualized appreciation, such as lunch with the boss one-on-one, thank-you notes, and informal praise in front of peers. Yes, the CEO often mentioned the team’s great work on the company newsletter and even on quarterly conference calls. But each person wanted to feel individually valued.

After discussing, the team agreed that wearing flip flops on Fridays was not all that important. Larry started a new mission to recognize each associate for his or her individual contributions. He went as far as hand writing a thank-you card using construction paper cut with decorative paper trimmers for the team member who enjoyed scrapbooking on the weekends.

He individualized recognition for each team member and ensured they knew he valued their contributions. And yes, he did get the casual Friday policy changed. He had a happy, productive team that proudly wore flip flops to work on Fridays.

The moral of the story: never stop asking questions, learning what your team values, and individualize the coaching, mentoring, and recognition.

Keep up-to-date with Fast Track Tools by subscribing to our blog so you will be the first to know about special, free offers.

photo by colouredinks

Subscribe to the Blog

Get new templates and tools each week!

2 thoughts on “Happy employees are wearing flip-flops

  1. Great post! Spending time asking our employees what matters most to them and following through with action is a great way to engage your employees.

    • Thanks, Katie! I think this is an often overlooked, but crucial, factor that can improve productivity and morale.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *