Kind Words and Coronets

Do you know what I find most revealing in this latest Fortune issue on the 100 best companies to work for?

Most of the time, for most of the companies, it's not so much the money they're spending on their workers, but what they do for their workers. What they say to their workers.

They don't abuse them. They lead them.

They don't cushion them. They challenge them.

Some get bonuses, but hardly all. Some get on-site day care, but again, far from all.

All get a kind word, when deserved, and firm, but constructive criticism when warranted.

No management games going on here. No shell games in the boardroom. No games, period.

In the case of broker Edward James, 97 percent of the workers there like and trust management there. Get a load of that — they like their bosses. And oftentimes because their bosses don't sit in a corner office and never talk to them.

They meet. They chat. Some even argue. But they always stay in touch.

And here's something more remarkable: The workers who are really happy are the ones who are thanked or given a kind word.

That's right. Money doesn't do it, though it helps. A nifty cafeteria doesn't do it, though for me, that would really help. No, what does it is simple kindness.

Leave it to workers and a few managers to remind us of something so simple.

The trick to being a good company is being good, period.

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