Business Q & A

5 Questions with Paul White

A Wichita psychologist's new book seeks to bridge the growing gap between employees and their bosses.

Paul White, 53, a local doctor who consults with businesses and wealthy business families around the country, is the co-author with Gary Chapman of "5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People."

The book targets the deteriorating relationship between employees and their employers, which White says is often driven by the current economic downturn.

The book is a series of tools for employers to use to identify and deliver encouragement to employees in a tough economic time.

What prompted you and Chapman to write the book?

"I've worked with family-owned businesses around the country and seen the issues of missed communication in the workplace.

"You might interview a father, say, and ask him how his son's doing and get a glowing report. The son, on the other hand, says he can't please his dad and never hears anything positive. There's obviously communication missing...

"So as we researched this to see what's up, we found that people, workers, desperately want to feel appreciated. They want to know that what they do matters.

"Further, as we dug in, we found managers and supervisors who think they're communicating appropriately, but they're not. They're missing the mark."

What's your sense of the mood of employees and employers in today's workplace?

"One thing is employees are anxious. Clearly. A lot of things that impact their daily life are out of control, from the political decisions in Washington that erode their retirement on down to the workplace.

"They want to know what they can do directly to make things better. The answer, we think, is to help them focus on what they can influence — do your work well, get along with team members, focus on customer service so you can make your place of employment more likely to survive the downturn."

What's the future of the American workplace, given the impact of the economic downturn?

"The negative future is something we see already — a lot of cynicism, sarcasm and lack of trust from employees. Many workers are going to say that whether it's some kind of reward program, recognition or whatever, they've heard it all before.

"There's a general lack of a sense of authenticity and sincerity from the employer, and we see that in the political realm, too."

What's the motivation for workplace managers to adopt your techniques?

"The hard line is it will make your business more likely to survive the economic difficulties ahead.

"It reduces staff turnover, it improves relationships between supervisors and colleagues and co-workers, it improves customer satisfaction and in some cases improves productivity."

What's the true cost for disdaining your workplace concepts?

"Employers are going to lose their top team members. They'll deal with more internal conflict and find themselves focusing more on that and less on customer service and innovation."