I’m halfway through Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family by Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia. It’s affirmed something I’ve felt for a long, long time: that most business leaders are doing it all wrong.

This passage hit me like a ton of bricks:

I remember a conversation I had with Ron Campbell, a veteran machine tester who had just returned from spending three months in Puerto Rico installing equipment for our Hayssen Flexible Systems division. He had a lot to say.

“First of all,” Ron asked, “if I tell you the truth, will I still have a job tomorrow?”

I replied, “If you have any trouble about what you say today, give me a call.” Believing that I was sincere and truly wanted to know how he felt, Ron opened up.

“Well, I see you have the word ‘trust’ near the top of this document,” he began. “However, it seems like you trust me a lot more when you can’t see me than when I’m right here. While I was in Puerto Rico, I was kind of an ambassador of the company, with an expense account and lots of freedom to do my job. I did the work and came back. I walked into the plant Monday morning the same time as a lady who works in accounting. She turned left to go into the office and I went straight ahead into the plant. Just like that, everything changed. All my freedom just slipped away. Suddenly there was all this suspicion and control. It felt like someone had their thumb on me all the time. I had to punch in at a time clock when I walked in, when I left for lunch and got back, and when I left to go home. If the lady in accounting wanted to call home to see if her kids made it to school, she could just pick up the phone and call; I had to wait until I had a break and then use a pay phone. If I have a doctor’s appointment, I have to get my supervisor to sign off on my card and I get docked for the time; she just goes to her appointment. I had to wait for the break bell to get a cup of coffee or even to use the bathroom. I walk in the same door with engineers, accountants, and other people who work in the office. Why is it that when they go to the office and I go into the plant, we are treated completely differently? You trust them to decide when to get a cup of coffee or call home, but you don’t trust me. If you really believe in these Guiding Principles of Leadership, why would you trust me when I was in Puerto Rico and not trust me when I am here?”

Chapman had his team remove every time clock, everywhere in his whole company, the very next day.

There’s much, much more to the book than this, but it really distills the message to the essence. Just about every company claims to put people first. Just about none of them do.

Read the book. We seriously need to fix how we treat our colleagues, especially those we lead, no matter what job they do. Chapman and Sisodia and Barry-Wehmiller have much to teach us in that regard.

If you can’t spare the reading time, at least read this article.