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It Was Just a Running Toilet: Leadership Tips for 2023

The sound of a non-stop running toilet is annoying enough when it is in our home. Imagine if that running toilet was in your office restroom ten feet away from the workstation where you spend eight hours a day. Such was the case when I took my car in for its regular checkup service and decided to wait out the two hours in the lobby and get caught up on some work.

After listening to this running toilet for 15 minutes and realizing it wasn’t ever going to stop, I looked up from my laptop and said to the receptionist, “Wow, that’s pretty annoying, huh?” My comment was met with a dull, “Ah, yup.” “Did it just start? I asked.” “Ah, nope” was the reply followed with, “I’ve told management about it twice over the last five days and nothing’s been done. I don’t think anyone really cares.” Upon hearing that comment, I wanted to go in there myself, remove the cover, bend the float, jiggle the handle—anything to give us some quick peace. At best, I seriously thought of just Googling a plumber.

What struck me most about this incredulous issue was the fact that employers continue to struggle to find valuable employees and yet when they do, the priority to take care of them seems to dissipate right into thin air. Did we learn anything at all in 2022 about treating employees as people first? With that musing in mind and the sound of the incessant running toilet in the background, here are my thoughts on what the best leaders will be doing in 2023.

Adopting the ‘New Normal’ when it comes to safety

Employees’ physical safety and protection against hazardous working conditions have been front and center for decades, as it should be. There are laws and inspections that hold leaders accountable for ensuring safe working conditions. But there’s a new safety decree in town now and it’s a powerful one for keeping the best and brightest employees, namely psychological safety. Employees who work in a psychologically safe environment feel valued, respected, heard, appreciated, and enjoy a sense of well-being, belonging and purpose. How do you think that was working for that receptionist? The research of 2022 spoke loud and clear, employees will not tolerate a work environment, team, or culture that even smacks of toxicity or a disregard of their psychological well-being.

Treating no two employees alike

Here is a thought to ponder. Of all the billions of people that have walked this earth prior to you, and the billions that may walk it after you leave, there will never be another you. You’re it. You are as unique as unique is ever going to get. Even identical twins are neurologically diverse. With that in mind, any leader that says, “I treat everyone the same” has already positioned themselves to fail. Employees need to be treated fairly, true. But as individual human beings they need to be cared for individually. It is our job to serve our individual employees in ways that will best set them up for productivity and business success.

Getting their ‘Flex’ on

If there was ever a time to be a flexibility Ninja and embrace change, 2023 would be it. We are in a workplace environment that is still reeling from being knocked off its feet these past few years. And if you have been one of those leaders still in denial about things getting back to just the way they were prior to the pandemic, I hope by now you have finally come to grips that they are not. There are many leaders holding out for the return of the old ‘command and control’ leadership style and are watching the rest of the world get and keep the best talent as a result.

The most successful leaders in 2023 will not only be thinking outside the box, they don’t even own a box. Instead, they are open to the ‘what could be and how can we look at this differently’ approach to every problem and situation that confronts them. They will be tapping into the diversity and expertise on their team to consider courses of action that can be most conducive to the success of the business overall.

It has been several weeks since my car’s checkup and I have often wondered if the toilet ever got fixed or if the receptionist quit on the spot that same afternoon. If I can give one piece of advice to leaders in 2023, it is time to care for the seemingly insignificant things to prove to our teams that we are able to see them as human beings first and our employees second.

Dr. Merrylue Martin is CEO of the Job Joy Group, a leadership development company, and author of the best-selling book, The Big Quit Survival Guide. To learn more visit


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