“Dear Captain Reman,
I just hired a new employee & they asked me for a new chair at their desk that they were assigned to.
I reviewed the quality of the chair and said SURE no problem because it is a bit beat up.
Then as I was walking back past my manger’s office I saw him looking at me for something. I asked him WHATS UP and he said I would like to get a new chair also. I responded with sure no problem pick one out you like.
Now after I got this behind me I thought back & I remember he had brought this up before & I discounted it thinking no big deal his chair is fine (my mistake). Fortunately my manager is awesome & forgiving he simply used the new hire as leverage to get his chair also.
The problem is it got me thinking & I know that many of us out there who lean on the side of cheap in lieu of staying profitable, expenses, etc we forget the people that get us here and most importantly KEEP US HERE. Here I had one of the best employees I have ever had work for me that wants a measly $200 chair so he is comfortable all day.
If ignored (which I did & fortunately it did not train wreck on me) how much would or could that simple $200 chair have cost me. Some sales for one day, two, three, bad will towards other employees, the employees all together.
So my point here is listen to your employees. Sometimes their requests are simple and tremendously valid but if ignored can set a persona that you will pay for badly.
I thought this out & figured it would be a good article for you to write about…”
From the Captain:
You tell a great story here. It hit me at a perfect time because my sales team happens to be complaining about their chairs!
I remember a study I once read that was conducted during exit interviews that reported a large percentage of employees who quit a job do so because of uncomfortable office furniture. I took the study pretty lightly (it happened to be presented by a furniture salesman), but the reality is that people care about their comfort.
And they should.
Think about this – one of my sales guys pointed out that you spend almost as much time in your office chair as you do in your bed. You’ll spend thousands of dollars on a mattress but next to nothing on a chair. And then you complain about your back hurting.
I won’t get into the argument for or against buying an expensive office chair, but, if you’re wondering, I lean toward splurging for a Herman Miller Aeron.
Let’s look at the root of the issue: you have an employee who wants a new chair. And I think you’ve done the right thing by providing one. You have the opportunity and the responsibility to create a comfortable environment, one in which your employees are set up for and motivated to achieve success. I think the $200 in your case is money well spent. You could have saved yourself $200 and then been left with an employee who sits and stews over what a cheap bastard you are and how much the chair sucks, instead of one who is grateful and focused on important issues (like making sales).
Be aware, though, that giving in to your employees’ requests can create a slippery slope. First they want a chair, then they want a desk, then they want an iPhone, then they want a car…
I’ve been using a self-discovered method for about five years that has served me well. I had a rep who approached me and explained that he needed a new computer (his was no more than six months old). Instead of saying no right away, I asked him a question: “If you get a new computer, what do I get?”
I know that question lacks tact and class, but it paid off. The guy promised to increase his sales because of the increased speed of his new computer. I had him write up a one-page contract that required him to sell one extra transmission every day and bought him a new $1,500 computer. In the first month, he sold nearly two extra transmissions every day. He got a new computer; I got new profit. We were both happy.
So this month at ETE REMAN, we’re running a little SPIF. My reps want new chairs (to the tune of $6,000 in total) and they’re going to get them. All they have to do is beat the goal we set together for sales this month. I’m even helping them do it by selling as many transmissions as I can and including my sales in the total.
Basically, I like tying the “reward” so to speak to some sort of effort from the employee side. It prevents people asking for ridiculous things unless they’ve got a really good case. It also allows the employee to feel proud of his/her accomplishment. Every time they sit in their new chair, they will remember what it took to get there.
You might try my way next time, or you might think I’m full of it. Either way, I think you’re better off thinking about how to make your employees comfortable and happy so they keep you in business and successful.
I’d sure love to hear from others on this topic. How do you handle employee requests for things like chairs, desks, phones, etc?