Empathy and Respect As Tools to Build a Sustainable Business
Like most young professionals and entrepreneurs living in a busy metropolis, I too love the daily hustle and my productivity podcasts. I wake up before sunrise to work out and to beat the morning rush.
After completing a business degree, I was determined to get a job in sales, pay off my student loans as soon as possible, start a bright career and launch a business.
My work days started at 8:30am and officially ended at 5:00pm, but, needless to say, the vast majority of the staff regularly stayed in the office until 8 or 9pm and occasionally until 11:00pm.
In this type of environment, days become a blur, and the caffeine-fuelled staff is continuously fed fatty foods and processed carbs for free to keep the sugar rush going and increase talk time.
I was never sold on the idea of overworking my mind and my body this way, but I had to pay my bills and living in Toronto is expensive.
I was able to sustain this unhealthy lifestyle for about 4 years until I had a physical and mental breakdown that was ignited by a caffeine overdose.
As I was trying to fall asleep one night, I couldn't stop my self from shaking. I stayed up until morning, and I texted my manager to call in sick.
He promptly replied that if I wasn't contagious, I had no need to stay home and that since we were approaching the end of the month, I had to focus on "ending my month strong". On my way to work, I lost my balance and felt light-headed. I felt incredible pressure on my chest, and that was it.
As I was laying in the emergency room at Toronto Western, I had some time to think about my mortality and how easy it is to take our health for granted.
Since then, I made it a point to balance my physical and mental health with my productivity.
However, this experience brought to my attention that most of my friends worked for companies that had no benefits, no protocols in place for dealing with mental health issues and no regulated work hours.
I knew this already, but it all seemed so real now. I could have been working for the wrong company and would have lost my job.
As time went by and I started doing some hiring for my company, I incorporated these valuable lessons in my corporate culture.
I don't want my business to be a breeding ground for unhealthy practices to yield short-term productivity gains.
Creating a successful sales team is not as easy as getting a group of money-hungry individuals in a room and squeezing every single last drop of energy out of them. This system could work for a few months, but it will collapse soon after creating a high turnover and decreasing loyalty to the company.
This system is poorly thought out. If you are a sales leader or a business owner, please remember that your goal is to achieve sustainable growth.
To do that, you need a team of healthy individuals that respect themselves mentally and physically and remember that if you don't respect your own staff, you can't expect your clients to do it for you.
Unhealthy corporate cultures are toxic for everyone. In the short-term, they negatively affect the employees, but in the long-term, they end up tearing the fabric that keeps a company together leading to financial loss and decreased productivity.
If you are a manager, use empathy and respect to connect with your team. Motivate by example and encourage Deep Work sessions (blocks of uninterrupted work time) instead of never-ending work days. Please remember that your employees have families and personal lives and they will lose faith in your company if you give them no other choice.
A good leader doesn't need to chain employees to their desks to increase productivity because great employees want to work for respectful and balanced leaders.
By now, you may have noticed that I used to word "respect" several times. That's because, in this market that is solely focused on productivity, self-respect and respect for others are slowly fading.
Let's try to remind ourselves that to build a healthy company, you need healthy people and if you are an employee, your goal is not to be the richest person in the cemetery.