The Case of the Market Basket CEO – Leaders Who Care Get Strong Employee Support
Here is a provocative headline:
“Would your employee care if you were fired?”
The story is intriguing: A boardroom tussle at this family-owned supermarket chain lead to the canning of the CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas, and the employees have risen up in his defense, demanding that he be rehired.
Click here for an Entrepreneur article about his business leadership methods.
This should spark the same question in the mind of any manager: How would your employees react if you were let go?
The greatest bond between a company and its employees grows through the leadership strength of each employee’s immediate boss. How well does that boss create trust within his or her team, and a “safe” work environment where risk taking is encouraged and creativity rewarded? Is failure tolerated as a learning experience or a springboard to better effort and results?
Here are some possible responses to the news that you have been laid off or fired:
Relief! You struggled to connect to your subordinates. You failed to forge emotional bonds that communicated how much you care about their success. You did not create a two-way communication channel that gave employees the ability to share frustrations and ideas, and ask for help.
Confusion. They bonded with you, but did not clearly understand your and their role in the organization. So, they cannot figure out (without input from higher ups) why you fell afoul of your superiors. Was it their fault? What could they have done to support you better?
Sorrow. You “had their back.” You went to bat for them when challenges arose between your team and other teams. You got them resources to help them succeed. You gave clear direction and followed up. You delivered on your own promises consistently. They will miss the energy and commitment you brought to work every day (or most days – we are all human!)
Of course, if you did all the things that would make employees sorry if you left, the chances of you actually being laid off or fired drop precipitously, as long as all your effort to raise productivity through employee engagement is aligned with corporate goals.
It is a rare set of employees who will take such aggressive action as Market Basket employees have, but managers who figure out how to lead the right way will get the support of their employees if issues arise between that manager and other parts of the company. (Our strong recommendation is still that the conflict be resolved in a way that benefits all parties, but it doesn’t hurt to have your team support you rather than fight with you over what to do!)
The bottom line is, Market Basket CEO “Artie T” Demoulas clearly showed his employees how much he cared about them as people, and about their success. And they are now returning the favor by publicly sharing how much they miss him, and want him back.
As the writer of the HubSpot blog notes, the CEOs who have replaced Artie have a huge hill to climb to replace him in the employee’s affections. It is not an impossible task (the employees clearly still care about the company and their jobs) and paying close attention to all the elements of employee engagement should help them succeed.
What do you think? Would your employees miss you very much if you left? What clues can you already pick up that might give you a sense for where you stand? Do you have the guts to ask them the question, and be willing to listen and respond to frank answers?
Discussing the Market Basket fiasco might be a great chance to start conversations with your team about what employee engagement bridges that you still need to build with them. Give it a try!