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May 11, 2007

News & Opinion: A Book of Decencies

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 4:45 PM – Filed under: The Company

Over the past few months, Jack and Todd have been taking each of us out for lunch. It's a chance for them to ask, "How are things going?" As they work their way around the office, they're learning about the things that are working well in our environment and the things that could be improved. More importantly, they're showing each of us that our experience at 800-CEO-READ matters, and that we can come to them with anything.
Jack and Todd are doing what Steve Harrison refers to as "decencies" in The Manager's Book of Decencies: How Small Gestures Build Great Companies. In describing his father's role as a psychiatrist, he says "My father's job was to listen--perhaps the ultimate decency of all." As most managers know, there are even more decencies a company can extend to its employees--small decencies like a coffee cart, a work-at-home day, introductions at meetings, and the freedom to choose projects that interest them. And then there are large decencies like company-wide mentoring programs, flexible schedules/shifts, defined employee rights, gestures of gratitude, and inviting employees to voice their opinions and concerns.
This book provides a list of these decencies, categorized under chapter titles like Consideration Decencies, Recognition Decencies, and Executive Humility Decencies, that can lead to workplaces where people are excited to come to work and happy to do their jobs. Harrison profiles a number of decency-extending companies like Lee Hecht Harrison, Disney, HP, Nabisco, Starbucks...the list goes on. Here's a brief excerpt on building great companies:
"Creating environments that employees describe as "a great place to work" and in which employees are free to speak their minds relies on the practice of decencies on a regular basis by everyone in the organization. It also takes leadership at the top to start the process, reinforce the efforts along the way, and communicate the long-term benefits of creating and sustaining an organization culture based on trust. These practices go beyond the leaders at the top to become common acts among people throughout the organization."

What I love about our workplace is our culture of extending decencies--of shutting up when someone's taking an important call, helping tip letters into a thousand books, toasting an important event in one of our lives, and taking the time to meet every two weeks and talk about the things we're working on. And the employee lunches haven't been half bad.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.