Sensitive people

Jan 07, 2019

“People working in this industry can be sensitive. It’s so easy to turn them off – and difficult to get them going again – if you can!”

The difference between making and losing money in the AEC business may only lie in whether or not your people are reasonably happy in their jobs and minimally motivated. And it is so easy to demotivate them!

People working in this industry can be sensitive. It’s so easy to turn them off – and difficult to get them going again – if you can! Here are some things to look out for:

  1. Public contradiction. No one likes to be publicly contradicted on something. But engineers seem to hate it more than others. Maybe they have a stronger need to be right? Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. Don’t do it to your people.
  2. Sarcasm/negativity. It wears on people and can make them feel bad about themselves. Be on the lookout for people who are like this. They will infect a certain percentage of your staff.
  3. Minor money issues. An example of this is when the university I work for made me pay for clear plastic name tags for my students because they weren’t in the budget. Then they did it again with whiteboard markers. Even though the university is a truly wonderful employer, I don’t mind saying that this kind of thing didn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling.
  4. Draconian policies. “Thou shalt not arrive later than 8 a.m. nor leave earlier than 5 p.m.” “No art shall be hung above the highest point of your cubicle wall.” “Men shall wear suits or sport coats with ties while in the office.” These are examples, all of which I have personally seen in companies in this business.
  5. Perceived demotion. Nothing is more demotivating than to be a manager and have a new boss hired in above you. Even if it’s a reorganization of some kind, if anyone feels they are being demoted – or that others will see them as such – their egos could be significantly bruised and they’ll be unhappy.
  6. Not being included. When you pick meeting attendees, pick carefully. Anyone who is excluded could feel bad or left out. Ditto for parties, presentations, or business trips.
  7. Not being responded to. I had someone tell me recently that they had thrown their name in the hat for a department head position and never got any reaction of any kind, neither good nor bad. That is demotivating. Or just not being responded to when you send an email to the boss. That can be a morale-buster, too.

All of these – or any one of these – could potentially turn off and demotivate someone who is otherwise a good employee. And they should all be avoidable IF you are smart and can anticipate problems.

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.