10 Ways to Land Your Biz on a ‘Worst Place’ to Work List

Jack Fehr

Every year, when various publications unveil their Best Places to Work lists, employees who work for the winners become the envy of all others across the workforce. Small business can learn from these top companies by adapting their best practices, or they can ignore the advice at their own risk.

To keep your employees happy and your small business profitable, be sure to avoid these 10 practices that can land your business on a Worst Places to Work list.

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1. Expect 24/7 availability. This is a surefire recipe for burnout. Instead, allow your employees to find a healthy work life balance.  Let them unplug. This counter-intuitive step can recharge your workers and actually coax more productivity from them.

2. Don’t train new employees. Lack of training will destroy any semblance of job proficiency and consistency in how employees work and serve customers. Your business can only benefit from robust, consistent, and ongoing training that guides workers in every aspect of their jobs.

3. Micromanage. Who likes to have every action predetermined and every minute monitored Micromanaging discourages worker initiative and diminishes morale and creativity. If you choose the best job applicants and train them thoroughly, trust them to make independent decisions and the occasional mistakes. Recognize that there are relatively few times when it’s OK to micromanage.  

4. Ignore the value of clear communication. Unclear or nonexistent communications can be as destructive to your small business as a lack of training. Top-performing businesses know how to communicate clearly. Great small businesses value their employees’ concerns and their input, and they listen as well as share relevant information.

5. Ignore the need for employee satisfaction. Companies that disregard this basic need are begging workers to go through the motions while looking for jobs with the competition. Employees that offer a measure of independence, freedom and flexibility are more likely to foster job satisfaction.

6. Create chaos. A chaotic environment is hard to work in. Well-run businesses foster a culture that is structured and orderly, where employees clearly understand their jobs, their roles within the context of the organization and company goals.

7. Practice nepotism. Only giving credit and job rewards to your relatives will destroy employee morale. Although many small businesses are family-owned where relatives are an important ingredient to success, great bosses understand the need to work with family members and friends fairly. Offer objective job evaluation and credit (and raises and promotions) where credit is due.

8. Allow managers to take full credit for everything. Managers who always take credit for their employees’ work will kill employee enthusiasm. Instead, employ a team approach where managers eagerly share credit. Top small businesses know that recognizing workers’ contributions is crucial to maintaining a productive company culture.

9. Ignore the value of employee benefits. Ignore this value and watch your workers jump ship for your competitors. Employees highly value health insurance and retirement plans, which require an investment on your part. Other benefits, like telecommuting, cost a company little to nothing. A competitive benefits’ package can help keep your best employees productive, happy and loyal to your company.

10. Don’t offer competitive pay.  When benefits and job conditions are equal, your employees are more likely to move to better-paying competitors. Salary increases are creeping up, after years of anemic pay raises. Thriving small businesses keep pace with these changes to make it harder for competitors to lure away top-performing workers.

If you can’t compete on salary, make sure you’re offering great benefits. Talk to your employees, find out what they value and work to find ways to make your employees love you.  

Turn these worst practices inside-out to keep your employees happy and attract new contributors to your firm’s success. Do the opposite and your employees may flee to you competitors.


Next Steps:  Imagine a world where your employees show up on time, work smart and deliver results for your small business day in and day out. Not there yet? Sign up for the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter and we’ll send you the best science-backed strategies on managing productive, happy employees—including tips on how to get them to show up on time!

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