A Better Boss or a Pay Raise?

A Better Boss or a Pay Raise? What Would YOUR Employees Choose?

Ask yourself this question: If I gave my employees a choice between receiving a pay raise or me becoming a better boss, which would they choose?

Chances are you’d probably say your employees would choose a pay raise, right? I mean, after all, who wouldn’t want more money? Taking a few liberties with the classic song Money by Barrett Strong, your employees are probably saying “Your leadership gives me such a thrill, but your leadership don’t pay my bills, I need money!”

Getting a pay raise would be an immediately tangible reward that everyone could literally take to the bank. Besides, it’s not like you need any dramatic improvement as a boss, right? Sure, you may not be the greatest leader in the world, but there’s a whole lot of bosses plenty worse than you. Your people would definitely choose a pay raise, you say.

Well, you’d be wrong. One study showed that 65% of Americans would choose a better boss over a pay raise. How do you like them apples?

In many of our training courses we do a “best boss” exercise. We ask participants to share the characteristics of the person who was their best boss, and as you can see from the list below, many of these traits are ones you can develop and master with just a bit of effort and focus.

My best boss…

  • Was trustworthy—Often mentioned as the foundation of what makes a best boss, being trustworthy is paramount to being an effective leader. Research has shown that employees who have high levels of trust in their boss are more productive, engaged, innovative, creative, and contribute more to the organization’s bottom-line. Click here to learn more about how to build trust as a leader.
  • Believed in me—Best bosses believe in the capabilities and potential of their people. Through their words and actions they communicate a sincere faith in their employees that builds the confidence of their team members to go above and beyond expectations.
  • Showed respect—No one likes to be talked down to or treated as “less than.” Best bosses recognize the inherent worth each person possesses and they seek to build people up, not tear them down.
  • Listened to me—Being a good listener is one of the most powerful, yet underrated leadership skills. Good listeners don’t interrupt, ask clarifying questions, summarize what they’ve heard, probe for deeper understanding, and also pay attention to what’s not being said in the conversation. Check out The 5 Fundamentals of Effective Listening for more tips.
  • Helped me grow—People want leaders who are invested in helping them grow in their jobs and careers. Best bosses understand that leadership is not about them; it’s about the people they serve. As such, they are committed to helping their team members grow in their careers, even if that means the employee ultimately leaves the team or organization for better opportunities.
  • Had my back—Participants in our classes often say their best boss was always in their corner, or had their back. There are times in organizational life where the boss needs to step up and defend the needs or interests of his/her team. Supporting your employees doesn’t mean blindly defending them regardless of the circumstances, but it does mean you always have their best interests at heart and are committed to putting that belief into practice.
  • Gave feedback in a way I could hear it—I’ve learned in my career that people really do want, and deserve, honest feedback about their performance. The trick is to deliver feedback in a way the person on the receiving end can hear it without becoming defensive, internalize it, and take positive action moving forward. Here is a way to give feedback that builds trust in a relationship.
  • Cared about me as a person—It’s a cliché but it’s true: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. You can be the most competent boss around, but if your people don’t feel you truly care about them as humans, then they will withhold their trust and commitment from you.
  • Adjusted their leadership style to my needs—The best bosses know that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to leadership. Each team member can be at different development levels in their goals and tasks, so the leader needs to adjust his/her leadership style to meet the needs of the employee. Managers need to learn to become situational leaders.
  • Gave me autonomy—No one likes to be micro-managed. Helicoptering over your employees and telling them what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, creates a sense of learned helplessness. It erodes the morale and motivation of employees and leads to them developing a “quit but stay” mentality. Best bosses make sure their team members have been given the proper training and have the best resources and tools needed to do their jobs. Then the manager steps out of the way and lets their team do their thing, while providing any needed support and direction along the way.

Unfortunately, too many leaders are unwilling to admit they could use a bit of improvement, and too many organizations tolerate poor managerial performance (free whitepaper: 7 Ways Poor Managers Are Costing Your Company Money). But as you can see from this list, becoming a best boss isn’t rocket science. It’s within the grasp of any leader who is willing to put in a bit of work to improve his/her craft.

Texas Health Resources utilizes work-from-home model to increase revenue cycle productivity


Whatever hours they’re at their best is when Texas Health Resources wants them to work, system says.

When Texas Health Resources hires new staff members to work in its revenue cycle department, it’s now required — for most functions, anyway — that they work virtually from home. Staff who have been there since before the virtual implementation have the choice, but many choose to go the route of the new hires. It’s a nice perk for the employees, but an even nicer one for the system, which has seen productivity increase significantly since taking this approach.

James Logsdon, THR’s vice president of revenue cycle operations and strategic revenue services, said the concept emerged in 2011 during the Super Bowl.

Dallas was the host city that year, and the big game took place in the midst of a rare ice storm. Logsdon came into work with the wind still whipping and noticed immediately that the office was like a ghost town, with few employees in sight. The system lost three to four days of productivity because people simply couldn’t make it into work, and thus a challenge was born: Turn revenue cycle operations 100 percent virtual within a year.

“It started out as a business continuity plan, but progressed into an initiative,” said Logsdon, recalling the event during the Healthcare Financial Management Association‘s annual ANI conference in Orlando. “It was a drive.”

It took longer than a year, and it may never reach 100 percent; some functions have to stay in-house, particularly with the jobs that involve direct patient interaction. But the effects have been noticeable. Employee satisfaction and morale are at an all-time high, and the turnover rate has been reduced substantially. The system used to lose revenue cycle employees to jobs that paid 10 or 15 cents an hour more, but no longer.

The linchpin of the program’s success is quality. It can’t budge an inch, and employees have to be held accountable.

“The metrics have to be award-winning,” said Logsdon. “You’ve got to set the expectation that this is a privilege. It’s something that could potentially be taken away. Basically, the message was, ‘Don’t let me down.'”

So far they haven’t, and part of the reason is the flexibility the virtual job affords them. Workers are allowed to set their own schedules as long as they put in the minimum eight hours. At whatever hours they’re at their best is when THR wants them to work.

Benefits aren’t just limited to reduced turnover and higher productivity, either. The system allows for better use of its real estate. Where there were cubicles packed tightly together like honeycomb bees, there are now classrooms, war rooms and revenue cycle training areas.

All that saves the system money, since it now uses its existing space for such purposes rather than expanding its footprint. New revenue cycle personnel are expected to work at least 90 days in the office while they undergo their training and education, but after that, they’re released to their virtual offices.

That’s not to say there aren’t challenges. Logsdon said that in some instances employees feel a sense of entitlement, resisting requests to return to the office when the need arises. There are also distractions that differ from the usual office distractions — children, neighbors, friends and family can sometimes intercede. To address this, THR conducts unannounced site visits to make sure everything’s copacetic.

The arrangement has created some new challenges for management, as they now have to ensure employees are using the right equipment and protocols and have an appropriately speedy internet connection. Few issues have arisen.

“Productivity is a topic that always comes up,” said Logsdon. “The requirement for employees, in writing, is to increase productivity by 5 percent. They have no problem hitting it. It’s amazing what you can pull out of people when they’re motivated by the right reasons.”

Editor’s Corner: Geisinger’s new-school/old-school approach to retain, recruit staff


“You can give out bonuses, trinkets, t-shirts and keychains. But at the end of the day people want to be listened to and feel valued, respected and cared for by their colleagues and the leadership team.”