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The Biggest Reason Your Hourly Employees Hate Working For You

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About three-fifths of all American workers punch a clock (or press a button) as part of getting paid. But there’s a bunch of small reasons and one big one why so many of them can’t stand their employer.

Before I express the usual doom-and-gloom of problems between labor and management, let’s review what we know. First: exempt and non-exempt employees are thought of differently by many HR professionals, even though only about a quarter of all workers are “truly engaged” in their jobs. Second: people who work hourly are generally more satisfied, but at the same time tend to want to “move up” to salaried positions.

That’s enough to get anyone thinking. In a piece for Inc Magazine on the woes of per-hour wage employees, Chad Holvorson notes:

All too often hourly employees feel like they’re less valuable than salaried employees because, at many companies, they’re seen as expendable and treated accordingly.

Obviously, this doesn’t create the kind of work environment that helps you attract high-quality hourly employees. Fortunately, you can make changes that make your workplace magnetic. Start by getting into the mindset of your hourly employees and pinpoint why they detest working for you.

Punch Card for Time Clock

© Flickr user Marcin Wichary

Of Holvorson’s seven points, two basically accuse the manager of being unprofessional and irresponsible. Those are #1 (“You Hand Out Schedules Less Than a Week in Advance”) and #6 (“You Don’t Accept Feedback.”) Another three demonstrate pettiness—#3 (“You Don’t Trust Your Employees”), #5 (“You Play Favorites”), and #7 (“You Make a Big Deal Out of Small Things.”) The remaining pair show a lack of foresight. That is #2 (“You Pay Minimum Wage and Rarely Give Raises”) and #4 (“You Don’t Bother With Training Programs.”)

These are all true in many environments, but there’s a deeper problem. All of these examples involve treating employees like children rather than like adults.

We’ve covered this plenty of times here on The Methodology Blog. Michael Reynolds of SpinWeb gave us a fantastic guest post urging people to stop working so hard on their company culture. Lorraine Ball wrote a piece chronicling her efforts to make her firm the best place to work. And if you go deep into our archives, you can see we’ve been talking about the way to maximize productivity, which is to think less about incentives and more about human emotions and desires.

What do all of these posts have in common? They use words like respect and freedom. That’s what matters most to all human beings, whether they are hourly or salary.

To Keep Your Hourly Employees From Hating You, Try Not to Have Any Hourly Employees

Want to know the worst way to measure work? It’s called “using a stopwatch.” If you’re paid by the hour, there’s not much reason to be efficient. But if you’re paid because the company thinks you’re valuable and you’re supported by the team, you’re going to contribute each and every day.

There are practical challenges to eliminating hourly positions. The Department of Labor outlines some of the key requirements. Check with an HR professional before making any changes in your company.

But more broadly: if you have employees, treat them like salaried employees. And that doesn’t mean expecting them to work crazy hours or to check their email while on vacation. Rather, it means considering everyone as a person who deserves respect, who has values, who needs to balance their time and their health, whose opinions matter, and whose productivity is directly related to how valued they feel.

That shouldn’t be revolutionary, but it is. And that’s why we keep talking to employers about ways to improve their workplaces and their organizations.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
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