Being Right vs. Building the Right Relationship – Improving employee engagement


As a boss, is being right your first priority?

Does being right improve employee engagement?


Being Right vs  Building the Right Relationship

 I took my daughter target shooting and witnessed an interesting scenario that we have reflected on multiple times.
A young man shot a signal flare from a flare gun at the 100 yard, 40 foot high, dirt back stop. He expected it to hit the dirt and burn for a little while. Instead, the flare rose up and went over the backstop into the woods and caught a dead tree on fire.

Once that happened, the potential for a forest fire become extreme. The young man and his two friends tried to put it out with water, but did not have enough and the 20 foot tree starting to burn.

There were two people witnessing this event. One was a person, (I will call him Jack) who immediately began to chew out the young men (all three) about shooting off the flare and how stupid they were. (Mind you that only one person shot the flare; the other two were helping fight the fire.) Jack threatened to call the sheriff and continually spoke negatively to the young man and his companions. This man offered no help and alienated everyone at the range.

Another person at the range, (let’s call him Will), saw what happened, was calm, understanding, offered assistance in the form of a gallon of water and a fire extinguisher.( Will even went and helped fight the fire when it flared up again after the 3 young men left.)

Jack threatened to call the Sheriff if they did not repay Will for the fire extinguisher but Will required no such repayment.

Jack left, and in a few minutes, the 3 young men left also. Unfortunately, about 10 minutes later the fire restarted. Will went over the 40 ft high dirt mound and into the briers to fight the fire. After ten minutes, another bystander joined him. After 20 minutes of working to get the smoldering wood out, they returned, happily chatting, obviously having made a new friendship.

I share this story to ask the question. Which person are you when someone screws up or does something stupid? As boss, do you chew your people out or are you sympathetic or compassionate?

Compare the two people and ask yourself how do you react?

1) Jack was correct in his judgment but had no compassion; alienated everyone at the range and provided no solution, just harsh judgments.Jack was “Right” but did people really listen? Do you do that to your people where they are afraid to take risk and try new things. Do you punish people for mistakes?

2) Will vocalized no judgment (for the judgment was obvious, nothing needed to be said), offered assistance, showed compassion, consoled the offender, and went the extra mile when the perpetrator left (i.e. accepting new responsibility by fighting the fire.)

If you are Jack, everyone thought you were obnoxious. Correct in your judgments, but obnoxious. Will was compassionate, respected by all and even benefited by making a new friend.

As a boss, who are You? Are you a judging, condemning person who offers no solutions, just self righteous judgments? Or, are you a peacemaker, showing compassion, helping others make restitution and building relationships?

Too many of us are the former and even pass that judgmental trait onto our kids. Instead, we could be involved helping make a person’s life better at work or even in their daily life.

If you are Will you most likely have compassion on the poor, the needy, and those who bring problems onto themselves. Many can’t pull themselves up by the bootstraps, but require compassionate help instead of self-righteous judgment.

Bosses who are compassionate and not judgemental promote a healthy work environment and their people enjoy coming to work and are engaged. Bosses who focus on being “Right” and are judgmental restrict employee engagement and people just do enough to get by.


Decide who you want to Jack or Will. Several people at the range gave Jack a last name.  Do your people give you that name too?


Compassionate bosses have lower turnover and their people perform at higher levels.


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