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I'm an avid movie buff. I'm the guy in my circle of friends that they all turn to during movie trivia games and random questions about actors and quotes. Recently, as a present to my wife, I purchased a year's subscription to the Starz network so she can watch her favorite book-turned-TV series, “Outlander.” I wasn't expecting anything out of it and began surfing through their various channel options. As an added bonus, I found that they were running a continuous marathon of my favorite anti-Christmas movie, “Bad Santa,” starring Billy Bob Thornton. If you haven't seen it, and you consider yourself a cynic when it comes to the mass consumerism aspect of the holiday, check it out.

The film follows an alcoholic safe cracker and his dwarf associate who work as a mall Santa and elf so they can rob holiday shoppers blind. The film reminded me of an important lesson: bad employees will sometimes do whatever it takes to keep their bosses from knowing how unhappy they are in their job. Let me explain.

Thornton's character, Willie, hates his job, himself and, therefore, his life. But he keeps going, dragging himself evermore reluctantly to the next city and the next mall, thanks to his diminutive associate. Although Willie is vastly unhappy with his life, he goes on, getting worse every year, to the point where his partner becomes fed up.

To find a solution to his misery, Willie befriends a troubled 10-year-old who teaches him the true meaning of Christmas. This leads to his epiphany that family and doing what you love are the keys to happiness, not money.

As the busiest season of the year has just passed and the New Year knocks, knowing the types of people you work with is critically important, both for the business owner and employees. It's easy to overlook an unhappy staff member who pretends to enjoy their work. This facade takes shape mainly due to one steady influence: fear. Some people have a fear of success, which includes the anxiety of too much work, or a fear of failure and having to start over at a new job. The mindset of many people is to look at a job as just work rather than as an integral part of their life.

A study on employee health published by Gallup Press in the book, “Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements,” showed that worker discontentment takes a huge toll on quality of life both inside and outside the workplace. Employees who said they like their jobs are twice as likely to be thriving in their lives overall. They reported strong relationships, effective money management, good health and engagement in their communities.

As business owners, who wouldn’t want workers like that? It’s understandable, however, that finding such workers can prove difficult. Simply put, your passion is not necessarily that of your employees. At the very least, it’s important to help employees understand the purpose of the business, their contributions to it and that you are business partners, but not necessarily friends. As many industry veterans have said over the years, the goal is not just to sell car audio and services but to sell yourselves. Nobody wants to buy from someone they don’t like. Be the kind of person you’d want to buy from. Promote a positive workplace environment where negative comments are not tolerated and the only goal is self-improvement.

No matter the employee, business owner, installer, or sales clerk, quality of life should be the goal. If the employee isn’t happy, perhaps it’s time to have a talk and learn what they really want to do. If there’s a personal matter involved, talk it over and see if you can help. What you don’t want to do is ignore it until it gets out of hand.

Like Willie, many employees will try to hide the fact that they are unhappy because they don’t want to face the reality of their own misery. The best way for people to get happy is by confronting their demons and finding what kind of work does make them happy. By doing so, like Bad Santa, happiness becomes infectious and can only result in a happy ending.




Since it’s both baseball season and a time when many retailers are hiring seasonal staff, I thought it would be a good moment to discuss an important topic. In a baseball club, much like any workplace, a certain balance must be maintained, not just for players to do their jobs and play to their full potential, but also for the players to get along with each other and with management.

In the film Moneyball, Brad Pitt stars as real-life Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane, who in 2002 was tasked with getting a low-budget, hand-to-mouth ball club to compete with big-budget teams like the New York Yankees. To do this, he had to think outside the box financially and do something socially that he had never done in four previous seasons with the club: talk to his players.

With all the hustle and bustle involved in running a retail shop, it’s understandable that an owner might be too busy to take a minute to get feedback from employees. Much like a baseball team, a staff requires the attention of management, but in an encouraging, rather than critical, way. A recent interview on with John Kotter, chief innovation officer at leadership strategy firm Kotter International, made clear that fear in the workplace acts like a “burning platform,” forcing employees to react. But that reaction style of management only works for so long, until employee energy and enthusiasm starts to wear out.  

“The reality is there are real risks associated with this negative stuff. People may jump off the platform, but they get tired, or they break an arm, to play out that metaphor. What we’re finding is that psychologists are coming out and saying that the positive stuff will maintain motivation over time much stronger and better than the negative stuff,” Kotter said. “Sure, the negative can get you going. You see a bullet coming at you, boom! You’ll get off of your chair. But in terms of maintaining energy and motivation over a couple of years, somebody just running from bullets doesn’t work.”

In Moneyball, tension in the clubhouse is visible when the team is losing. Players either keep to themselves and look at it as only a job, or they are unruly, joyfully dancing on tables to music, even after a loss.

That tension seems to come from the lack of positive reinforcement from Beane, and from the fact that the only interactions the players have with him are in the form of yelling when they lose, or silence due to his absence from the clubhouse most of the time. To clarify, positive reinforcement is the act of presenting a pleasant stimulus to entice a person to repeat a desirable action.

To the customer, it’s obvious when employees are unhappy. Energy levels are low, their mannerisms and speech patterns are less enthusiastic, and the work itself tends to suffer. Likewise, customers can tell when employees are happy.

Aside from the standard monetary compensation and benefits like a 401K, medical and dental insurance, rewarding good behavior can be easy and inexpensive, according to an article by two professors at the Harvard Business Review.

The article states that employees who strive to create a better future for themselves are, in their words, “thriving.” These employees aren’t just content in their jobs; they are proactive, engaged and highly energized. This type of employee was found to demonstrate a 16 percent better performance than their peers, and they were 32 percent more committed to the organization. They also missed considerably less work and had fewer doctor visits.

Whatever your method, knowing the strengths and improvement areas of your staff is vital for gauging what they can and can’t do. When you do need them to push, remember to reinforce their hard work with a reward, whether it’s a verbal compliment, a high-five, a simple thank you, or a form of compensation.

When Billy Beane finally discovered how useful interacting with his players was to their performance and overall happiness, he visited the clubhouse more often, spoke to individuals about specific improvements they could make, and formed strong working relationships with as many as he could. Doing this in your shop might just result in a metaphorical home run. 

Copyright - Mobile Electronics Association 2020

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