Respecting Staff in the Workplace

Demystifying Valuation, Economic Damages + Forensic Accounting

  In the early 1980’s I had just become a partner in a 90-person Phoenix CPA firm.  I thought I had a pretty good idea of how to treat staff working for me – that is, from all the stuff I’d been taught in the management training courses I’d gone to, and from my own experiences in managing staff up to that point.  However, I learned that there is more to supervising workers than giving them instructions and holding them accountable.  I learned there were other ways to deal with subordinates.

 Harold and Julius were two of the senior partners of my firm. They were well known in the business community and were considered icons among Phoenix CPAs.  And just as importantly, they were beloved by our staff.

 I learned a thing or two about dealing with staff, clients, and people in general from observing Harold and Julius.

 Almost every morning of the business week, Harold would make his rounds throughout the offices and work stations of those employees working at my firm.  He would make it a point to give anyone he encountered a big smile and “hello.”    He would ask staff about their kids and parents, and would know everyone by their first name.  Keep in mind this was a 90-person firm. 

 When he gave staff work assignments they were thrilled to be working on Harold’s jobs.  Harold had a fatherly and gentle way of dealing with those who worked on his clients’ jobs.  He always made them feel that he cared for them – not just as employees, but as persons.   Harold vigorously supported everyone who worked for him.  If a client was unhappy with the work of a particular staff person, Harold would stand by his employee while assuaging any concerns the client might have.

 When making a proposal visit to a prospective client’s office, Julius liked to take a new staff person with him.  At the meeting, Julius would tell the representatives of the potential client, “Janie is one of our newest and brightest accountants.  What a great hire she was for our firm.  She is going to assist me on your engagement and I assure you, Janie will do her usual stellar job for you.”  Janie might have been with the firm a month, but she felt like a million dollars after Julius’ introduction.  Julius might have been guilty of a wee bit of exaggerating, but Janie enthusiastically worked for Julius, determined not to let his faith in her down.

 Both Harold and Julius made everyone they encountered feel like they were important as persons as well as very important to the success of the firm.  They treated staff with a caring respect and dignity.  As the old saying goes, staff would have walked through brick walls for the two of them.

 Harold and Julius taught me much about how to treat, not just staff, but peers, superiors, and just folks in general.  I also like to think that as I aged and matured as a professional – and as a person, that I developed some wisdom and my own sense of how to treat others, similar to how I would like to be treated.  I don’t believe in the saying, “Nice guys finish last.”  I do believe, however, that good supervisors will earn the respect of their workers if they treat their staff with respect – and with fairness and understanding.
What about you?  I’m not saying that supervisors have to be so congenial to their staff that they are unable to mete out discipline, or deserved criticism when it is required; or, unable to be insistent with workers in order to meet project deadlines.  I’m also not saying that all staff are great workers.  On the other hand, why not treat them like it until they demonstrate otherwise.  And, even then, ask yourself if their mistakes were honest ones – ones done with no pre-meditation or malice in mind?  Is the staff person able to be “rehabilitated,” that is, to be kept as a potentially great employee?

 As a manager or supervisor of staff, how would they say you measure up?  Will they walk through brick walls for you?

 Don Bays, CPA/ABV, CVA