“You know that scene in Die Hard where John McClane drops a bomb on the terrorists and then the Police Chief screams at him for it?”
“Definitely!” I responded.
“Well, when McClane says he feels ‘pretty f—ing unappreciated’, that’s how I feel.”
I knew exactly what he meant. This conversation with a friend caused me to worry about my team members at work. I knew we’d been working extremely hard and wondered, do they feel like Bruce Willis’s character, John McClane? Do your employees feel this way? If there are similarities between this movie scene and your office behaviors, they might!
Employees Fight Hard and Kick Terrorist Butt
In Die Hard, terrorists blow up a SWAT team assault vehicle. In response, Officer John McClane, the hero, drops a major explosion on the terrorist’s floor of the building, killing two more terrorists. The backfire from the explosion rocks our hero and covers him in debris. Wounded, tired, fighting for his life and those of the hostages, McClane huddles in a corner after the explosion and picks up his radio.
Your team members, like McClane, are fighting tooth-and-nail for the best solutions of your customers, investors and partners. While there may not be lives on the line, they are still making many sacrifices for your business.
Clueless Executives Criticize What They Do Not Understand
Following our Hero’s counter-strike on the terrorists, Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson (Paul Gleason) jumps on the radio and yells at McClane. The Chief exemplifies a disconnected executive who thinks they know what is best, when in reality, they do not understand the situation. Robinson shouts over the radio at McClane:
Now you listen to me, Mister: I don’t know who in the hell you think you are or what you’re doing, but you just destroyed a building! Now we do not want your help. Is that clear? We don’t want your help!
To which McClane responds:
Now you listen to me… …you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Quit being part of the… …problem and put the other guy (Sergeant Al Powell) back on!
Front Line Employees Feel Unappreciated
Our hero – your team member, is covered with dust, tired, injured and bleeding. John McClane, now heckled by Robinson, tells Sergeant Powell of his frustration, explaining he feels:
Pretty f—ing unappreciated.
Direct Supervisors Encourage and Try to Help
Police Sergeant Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) represents the dedicated supervisor who believes in his team. Powell has been listening to McClane and trying to help. However, Powell is constrained by his executive leadership and an inability to directly help McClane. Therefore, the best he can do is encourage McClane:
Hey, look, I love you. So do a lot of the other guys. So you hang in there, man – you hear me?! You hang in there!
How You Can Prevent Employees From Feeling Unappreciated
1. Manage at Your Level: Work with your direct reports. Allow the direct managers to lead their teams. Often, executives are not aware of critical reality factors. As a result, the best of intentions can offend employees.
2. Listen to the Front Line Workers: These individuals know the reality of your business where the rubber meets the road. As Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart put it:
The folks on the front lines – the ones who actually talk to the customer – are the only ones who really know what’s going on out there.
3. Listen to Direct Supervisors: They are the most in touch with those front-line workers. Skipping over the “middle manager” layer is only good to collect feedback and listen. This is a terrible way to manage down or give orders.
Question: What other ways do you know to ensure team members do not feel unappreciated?