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The Final Word by Chuck Swann

The last time we got together, I told you a bit about a mentor of mine explaining to me the "Four S's," which many analysts consider the prime motivators of human behavior. They are appeals to status, security, savings and sex. Many professionals who study the psychology of normal persons believe that no one ever does anything for any reason other than one or more of these appeals.

In the first article in this series, we took a look at status appeals as affirmations of ourselves as persons of worth. Let's look today at security--how things that make us feel secure affect our behavior and our decision-making.

Some years ago, I visited a mill that had recently started up what was then one of the largest lime kilns in the world. Among the operators clustered around the input end of the kiln was a young woman. This was in a time when women were seldom seen around mills, except in the office. My conversations with the operators included this young woman, and she seemed proud to let it be known that she was the second generation in her family to wear work shoes in this mill. Her father had only recently retired from the maintenance crew. She felt that his job at this mill had been for many years the source of her family's financial stability and comfort. She was happy and excited to be earning a paycheck, more or less in her father's footsteps. She felt secure in following her father's example in working for a company that he had always respected.

Stability and comfort are the drivers behind our search for security. The need for stability drives the wise persons among us to open savings accounts. Our desire for comfort impels us to want that nice easy chair in the furniture store window. All in all, we equate "living the good life" with security.

At still another mill, shift workers were usually not surprised to see the owner-CEO walking through the machine room, or any other part of the mill, at odd hours of the night. This mill owner knew that the people who actually made the paper were the most important ingredient in the mill's success. The difference between him and many other CEOs was that he wanted his employees to know of their importance, even at the inconvenience of leaving his home to visit with the workers in the second and third shifts. The employees responded accordingly, recognizing implicitly that caring management was the glue that held their mutual success drive together. This owner-CEO had acquired this mill when it was decidedly not successful, and turned it around. His attitude toward the mill workers and his personnel policies were in no small measure responsible for the turnaround.

Humane policies are the first step in establishing a sense of security among employees. You will not have to tell them that your policies are good for them; they will know whether they are or not. If they are not, no amount of salesmanship from the personnel office will convince them of anything.

Shut-downs and layoffs are inevitable. But they can be made less painful if employees have previously been made to feel that they are valuable people and that management truly regrets financial exigencies and carefully explains them to the people involved.

Chuck Swann is the editor of Paperitalo Publications. He can be reached by email at chuck.swann@taii.com.


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