They say the #1 reason employees leave a company is because of their direct manager.
I worked for Sun for 11 years, and the main reason I lasted that long was because I had great managers the whole time. There were 14 of them: Render, Michele, Dilshad, Francis, Brian, David, Austin, Pat, Wendy, Mike, Mimi, Shripad, Jessica and Peter. These folks were honest and hard-working professionals and they all cared about me and the company, often in that order.
I could tell you tons of stories about how wonderful they were but I'll pick just one.
It was the spring of 2001 and I had just screwed up a project schedule. We had this translation vendor who was supposed to send a translation to my team's project alias but instead they sent it just to me. And it took me a while to open that mail and realize that the delivery hadn't gone to the whole team. Once I did realize it I forwarded the translated files to the right person but this caused a delay which made us slip our schedule.
I felt awful.
I decided that my manager Francis should hear about it from me instead of from someone else so I took the Walk of Shame into his office and gave him the full report. I told him I had learned from this mistake and it wouldn't happen again. I told him I felt really bad about it. He was very understanding.
I left his office and went back to my own, still feeling like shit.
And just at that moment Francis popped his head into my office. He said, "Hey, don't beat yourself up about this. We all make mistakes sometimes."
If it had been appropriate to hug him I would have.
You know why that comment meant to much to me? Because at that moment I knew that Francis knew me. He knew that I was in fact beating myself to a pulp over this mistake. And he knew just what to say.
To boil it all down - he knew me. Isn't that what we all want, really? We want someone to recognize us as individuals. To know what's different about us. What's special about us. What makes us tick. What ticks us off. We don't want to be a face in a crowd or a number.
And although I was employee #100840, my managers at Sun always knew who I really was.