The other day, one of my associates commented, “Robert, in all the years I have known you, I do not think I have ever heard you swear.” I believe that is a good thing.
However, I was simply quoting what had been brought up not once, but three separate times at recent Thought Leader sessions for Millennials and client events. They had come up with ideas on how leaders can become more engaged with their employees, and three separate times, the exact same quote was used: “just give a shit.”
I was dumbfounded, having heard this phrase so many times within a mere few days of each other. Each time I asked for them to say more; they explained that they wanted those that they worked with, and worked for, to simply show that they genuinely and authentically care about them as a person, care about the work that they were doing, and care about what they had to say.
The first time I heard it was when I asked the group of Millennials, “What is your definition of engagement? What does it mean to you in the context of work?” After brainstorming, they came up with many definitions, but two really stood out. One had to do with “belonging” – the need to be apart of something that they experienced a shared purpose with (something for a latter blog post) – and the other was simply “give a shit”.
Having been in underappreciated situations before, many of these Millennials recognized how important care and concern is in the workplace, and thus, had made choices to align themselves to organizations that encouraged these values. Unfortunately, not all companies do. “There is an epidemic of the ‘I don’t give a shit about you’ management philosophy,” engagement expert, Margaret Graziano, observes. “If a manager wants an engaged, productive team; they need to take the time to bond with their team members,” (2014). What these young employees wanted was to have their leaders and their company care about who they are, care about their thoughts, ideas, their lives, and the fact that they are a whole, complete, and individual person.
Vans – the popular shoe and apparel company – is an organization that encourages care and encouragement quite well. They have an award dedicated this idea: the “Give A Shit Award.” The award is given to “a Vans team member who consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty through hell or high water.” Vans both encourages the value of hard work and passion with this award, prompting others to continually care and demonstrate appreciation. While the Millennials recognized that organizations, leaders, and team members need to show care for each other, Vans comes from the need of showing that it is also the individuals opportunity to hold this value as well to those that they serve. Basically, the idea of care comes full circle: When an organization or management team expresses concern about their employees, the employees are able to care about the work they do and who they serve, which positively affects the company, and completes a full circle.
After the session with the Millennials, I was working on with a group of leaders dialoguing about the same subject. We were talking about the concept of engagement and how they were going to work as leaders to help create a culture of continuous engagement. We were doing some flip chart work, and one of the groups had covered their flipchart only to unveil that same statement: “we need to give a shit.”
A follow-up conversation shortly after, a senior leader that I was speaking with shared the same phrase in reference to their next line of leadership and how that group needed to emphasize the importance of care for their employees and the work that they do.
Three times in a row, this sentiment was reinforced for me, and not including what Margaret Graziano and others say about it. Full engagement will not happen if leaders and co-workers do not care about the people around them – something the participants at the various Thought Leader sessions were highlighting. And while we want others to care about who we are, just as we should be caring for others, it is also important that we care about ourselves. Heidi Priebe says that “the ‘I-couldn’t-care-less’ attitude is alive…and thriving.” We think that apathy and never trying makes it easier (and us less accountable) when we fail. But “giving a shit is the magical key that unlocks the door to the vast potential within you,” and is crucial to engagement and contentment in the workplace (2015).
What the Thought Leader sessions showed was how crucial care is in the workplace and to employee engagement. However, you express this idea, it all comes back to the concept of Care, one of the 8 Factors of Engagement, measured by these statements.
- My supervisor cares about me
- People genuinely care about each other at work
- I care about the people I serve
We all want to feel valued, appreciated, heard, and cared for at work. The essence of this is to show that you care – first about yourself, and then about others.