Today my wife and I have been married 47 years. Three years ago I published this post and I thought it was still apropos, so I am republishing it.
Today is my wedding anniversary! Now you may think was does this have to do with anything in HR? As I have reflected on my marriage I found a lot of similarities with working for a good company. I share these with you below.
# 1- Courting
In a good marriage, you spend time courting each other. My wife and I dated for over two years before we married. That allowed us to get to know each other before making a commitment. Companies and prospective employers should do the same. I am not recommending you spend two years but I am suggesting you take more time before you make the decision. Get to know each other better before you say “I do.” I tell all my clients “Hire slow, fire fast.” Fortunately for me, I have not had to do the “fire” part and if you select your employees more carefully you might not have to either.
# 2- Adjusting to each other
Seeing someone first thing in the morning is a lot different than dating them. Having your new partner being grumpy, out-of-sorts, or bright-eyed and bushy-tailed before your coffee gives you a different perspective on who they are. Do they pick up after themselves? Do they assume you are doing various things that you have not agreed to do? The answers to those questions reveal different people than you may have expected. Employees are the same way. Their work habits may not jive with yours. They may not be as neat as you are or may be an OCD neat freak that drives you up the wall. Regardless there is a period of adjustment that everyone undergoes. If you don’t realize this then a separation, aka turnover, may soon be coming.
# 3- Allowing learning and growth
When you get married, particularly if you are young, you will learn, grow, and change. Your partner will as well. If the two of you do not realize that and allow for that you will face many a difficulty. The person will not always be the exact person you said “I do” to on your wedding day. Starting in a new job is the same way. Both you and the company should expect that you are going to learn, grow and change. There should be encouragement for that process in both a marriage and a job. If that process is not happening with both sides then the relationship will become stale, and like stale, bread eventually it goes to the birds.
# 4- You have to enjoy each other
In today’s employment parlance this means you have to be “engaged” in your job. The more engaged you are the more you enjoy the relationship. It works the same way in a marriage. If you are no longer engaged in your partner you will dread waking up beside them and spending time with them. In a job, there is nothing worse than waking up and dreading going to work because you hate the job. The same thing holds true in a marriage.
# 5- You have to allow for mistakes
There is an old line that says “I don’t make mistakes. I thought I did once, but I was wrong.” No one is perfect. People make mistakes, sometimes more than once. Marriage partners that punish the first failure are like companies that punish employees that make mistakes. You distance both and may eventually lose. In both marriage and in a job there has to be a big dose of forgiveness that allows the person to correct and learn from their mistake. There is no progress otherwise. It does not mean you forget the mistake, because if the mistake is repeated then the person is not learning and not a match for the relationship.
# 6- Overlook the wrinkles
The more time we spend with each other and grow old together the more you have to overlook the wrinkles that have developed. You may see another person that is more vibrant but you have to think “Is it worth it to replace what I have?” If you keep helping each other learn, advance, stay challenged and stay engaged you will not need to replace anyone. I find employers that want to quickly terminate an employee without really making an effort to be as distressing as a married couple who want to dump a partner without making an effort.
# 7- Celebrate
Today it is not in vogue to have long-term employees. Authors who discuss the future of work, myself included, say you probably should not expect an employee to stay more than four years. If they stay more be happy. Although I say it, it saddens me. I think much of that is because the company does not keep the relationship interesting. Perhaps with the other changes that are occurring in the world of work, we might be able to fix this.
I am happy to say my wife and I will be celebrating tonight. In reality, we celebrate all the time. That is part of the secret of keeping engaged with each other for all these years. I hope there are many more.
Happy Anniversary Sherry Haberman!