Wisdom//

An Office Romance: How to Get Your Employees to Fall in Love with Their Jobs

Tips to help you build an inclusive, supportive culture for your team to attract and nurture top talent.

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Chantel Soumis Photo Credit Miriam Bulcher Photography, Madison, Wis.
Photo Credit Miraim Bulcher Photography, Madison, Wis.

This article was prepared with many cups of ambition, love, purpose and I’ll admit, a sprinkle of clickbait because you won’t find any juicy details of infidelity or breakroom PDA’s. I’ve cooked a flavourful story for you about how I fell in love with my job at a company most have never heard of based on a mixture of company culture, an extraordinary boss, and a supportive team.

In the past year, I’ve received over a dozen job offers across the nation, including one with an incredible sign-on bonus, one with an impressive relocation package, and another that was DOUBLE my current salary. But I made the decision to devote my career to Valicom.

But WHY Chantel?! Who is VALICOM?! Why would you turn down those offers?!

Hold tight… you’ll find out!

I hope that after you read my story, you’ll build a culture that nurtures individual passions and purposes while cultivating a safe space to have difficult conversations. I hope it helps you attract top talent, feed fulfillment desires, and retain the many blessings in your career as you make the most out of your leadership role.

How to Get Your Employees to Fall in Love with Their Jobs

Telecom Expense Management. Sound familiar? Unless you work in corporate IT, probably not – so it was a completely foreign language when I took the leap into Marketing Management at the SaaS (Software as a Service) organization coming from a background of retail and pharmacy benefits.

When I first met my team at Valicom, I had actually rejected the job offer for another option in the area which fell through quickly. It was following a lapse of employment when I was at my lowest, working through a debilitating relapse of Multiple Sclerosis and my life was a chaotic mess – but it’s okay to make a few mistakes as long as you learn from them, right? So when I was approached by a head-hunter just six months later for the same role, I knew it was fate, but would they really accept me after I rejected them!?

I imagined the seventh-grade dance when dreamy-Nick asked Hayley, the most popular girl in school, to dance. When she turned him down he then asked Brittany standing next to me, who declined his request. Determined to find a partner to join him in this slow song, he finally turned to me. Gotta love being the last choice. I turned dreamy-Nick down just because I instantly felt salty and insignificant.

I didn’t want them to feel like little Chantel at the seventh-grade dance.

So needless to say, I was ecstatic when I was invited back for another interview and of course they didn’t let me down by giving me a hard time for rejecting them a few months earlier. In fact, it was that kind of open banter and fun that was refreshing from my previous five years in Marketing. I could already tell the team was a fit. Accepting the role, salary and expectations were the first steps, but what came next was the most difficult conversation I’ve ever had with an employer.

Supportive Leadership & A Safe Space

If you’ve been following my story, it’s no surprise to you that I have quite a few auto-immune diseases and related challenges… but there was a time when I wasn’t so confident. A time when I was so humiliated by the incurable, unpredictable illness that I let it clip my wings, keeping me trapped in a cage of self-doubt and low self-esteem.

It was a few weeks into the job and I was getting used to the current policies and procedures. I had a big vision for the competitive organization and pulled together a comprehensive strategy for the next six months, as well as numerous statistics and measurables that I’d use to review my success over the next year with a rebrand and alternative initiatives.

I met my boss and COO, Jeff, in a booth at a nice restaurant halfway between the office and his home where he worked full-time to help support his incredibly fun, thirty-something son who also has Autism as well as his aging parents and their health challenges, but that’s a story he’ll share with you…

*PRO TIP: Treat your employees for bi-weekly one on one checkpoints over lunch. Getting outside of the office is a breath of fresh air and it makes you feel appreciated with a meal on the company card.

“How are you feeling?” He asked as we scanned through the menu. He always starts our conversations with sincerity without any lead-in’s, like “how are you feeling with the new office” or “how are you feeling with the content marketing agency?” This always leaves the discussion open and offers the freedom to discuss anything. Something I continuously appreciate and admire.

*PRO TIP: Start one on one meetings off with casual, sincere catch-ups. Not only do the anecdotes create inside jokes and background knowledge, but without understanding personal elements, it’s hard to really understand your employees’ behavioral tendencies and personalities.

When we were wrapping the meeting up, he thanked me for being so organized with an agenda, outline, metrics, and a plan to take things in marketing to the next level. I remember my stomach flipping inside, knowing that I had to discuss the elephant in the room. My MS.

*Just RIP it off like a bandaid* I thought – my go-to mechanism when it was time to force myself out of my comfort zone, like getting on that rollercoaster ride or introducing myself to a stranger…

“I have something very important that I need to discuss with you. I have a little something called Multiple Sclerosis. Do you know what that is?”

I think I’m going to throw my lunch up all over this table!

I remember him looking surprised as he leaned into the conversation with eyes wide open. “Actually yes, I am very, very familiar with MS. One of my good friends has it and I ride the MS bike ride every year. We used to be in a band together but he stopped playing guitar because he couldn’t feel his fingers anymore. I think he’s also got a few other challenges but he never talks about it – he’s always super positive and quiet about it.”

PHEW! JACKPOT! HE GETS IT!

I started to nerd out about the fact that I couldn’t feel my fingers or feet either and began to explain further about my lack of vision in my left eye and that I’d need an additional monitor along with a few other reasonable accommodations.

“Anything you need. Just ask Anthony for IT resources and John will help you order anything else. How about an adjustable desk – would that help? I swear by my Veridesk.”

I couldn’t have ever imagined so much support. A boss that sincerely cared… not just about the quality of work I was going to put out that required some accommodation that he was eager to provide, but sincere curiosity and support for my physical and mental wellbeing.

He thanked me for my transparency and emphasized the offer to provide any and all accommodations needed, including the option to work remotely if needed and take time off should the need occur.

Remember when I told you about the extraordinary boss? We’re just getting started.

Setting the Stage for Culture

Every organization is different with a unique set of values, policies, and procedures, and Valicom really dazzled. And yes, Victor, I wouldn’t be serving this article justice without bragging about our partnership, a next-level sales/marketing collaboration. Different ideas and perspectives with a love of humor and fun. Dull day? Smother me in memes. Difficult sale? Make a game out of it. An unexpected hospital visit? Give me a hard time later for finding an excuse to leave the office early!

And my amazing, fellow intrapreneurs. Sara is an incredible Project Manager who has been dedicated to Valicom for nearly fifteen years! She’s filled with hilarious stories and fans her entrepreneurial flame in the field of photography–although she doesn’t charge nearly enough 😉 Britt is my Campaign Strategist in the marketing department and is seriously hungry for success, as well as working full-time on building a charitable app that raises money for local non-profits in turn for coupons for local establishments. I constantly feel so lucky to be surrounded by so many incredible professionals who not only balance a career outside of work, but they’re ENCOURAGED to fan that flame of entrepreneurship by leadership.

And the rest of our incredible team that brings all of the expertise to the table. Did you know that all of our project managers have OVER A DECADE EACH of time spent at Valicom? That’s SUPER rare and serious proof that a company is doing something right.

With the support of my boss, I felt confident enough to open up on social media about the hidden struggles of chronic illness and continue to advocate. I’ve established a following and have spoken across the globe about social selling, branding, and inclusion – all thanks to the support and encouragement from my boss and my team at Valicom.

*PRO TIP: Don’t limit your team’s passions to the workplace only. Encourage entrepreneurial ventures and offer to help them follow their journey of freelance wherever you can. They’ll respect you for the support and fulfillment.

Does your employer pay you to be awesome? Mine does. Every quarter we have “Recognition Bucks” to highlight and reward those who do something outside of their particular scope and give them money. Each “Rec Buck” is designed to reinforce the corporate values into those actions that go above and beyond. It’s nice to get some cred for doin’ a little goody-good. Right?

Another WIN? Philanthropy. Giving back to our community means a lot to my generation and being rewarded for generosity is even better! Valicom has a program that matches PTO (Paid Time Off) days with donations to The United Way’s local chapter.

*PRO TIP: Appreciate your employees with recognition programs and make sure to send your thanks for a job well done.

Be Flexible & Encourage Creative Freedom

“Jeff, check out these metrics. Isn’t it crazy that we’ve received leads via social media? Are you cool if I put some marketing dollars here and play with this further?”

“Take it away – I’m always open to trying new things.”

WHAT?! A boss that lets me experiment with new initiatives?!

Over the first year of my employment, we TRIPLED the number of incoming leads with half the marketing hours required. I’d call that a success. It helps that I have a built-in, per-lead incentive to fuel the marketing engine.

*PRO TIP: Don’t micromanage, encourage creative freedom, and REWARD them for a job well done. You’d be surprised what results can be achieved when practicing new methods.

Be Understanding, Acknowledging & Supportive

It goes without saying that an understanding, acknowledging and supportive leadership style is effective. By creating a safe space, where you are approachable and professional, you’re letting employees be human. You’re accepting the idea that failure exists and as long as you acknowledge that with positive reinforcement and coaching to learn from mistakes and grow forward, you’re setting the entire team up to succeed.

I understand how fortunate I am to have found a career that encourages my personal and professional growth, even if that takes me away from them. I’m so fortunate to work on an incredible team, for an extraordinary boss and I wish the same for you and your team.

By following the pro tips above, I hope you can build an inclusive, supportive culture for your team to attract and nurture top talent. You don’t need an open-office concept (ew) or a game room with free beer to attract top talent… you simply need a stellar lineup of leaders.

Did I miss something? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

An Office Romance: How to Get Your Employees to Fall in Love with Their Jobs

Although there aren’t any promises of what will happen in the future as my strategic branding business and inclusion advocacy continue to grow along with the requests for marketing support from organizations across the world – I’ll always have a massive place in my heart to support and promote Valicom’s incredible organization.

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