Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

It's unwise to underestimate just how much your employees know.

It's easy to think you can make the big decisions and inform them when (you think) the time is right.

It can be a lot more intelligent to make sure they're hearing it from you as soon as it happens--or even before it happens--not from some third party.

Over the past year, most airlines have undergone considerable upheavals. 

The airline most affected by the MAX problems has been Southwest. It had 34 of those planes, 10 more than any other airline.

Oddly, however, it's managed to perform consistently in terms of on-time performance. Last month, the airline was again second behind Delta.

Yet there's still no knowing when the MAX might reappear.

There's also the issue of compensation from Boeing for what many feel was its woeful handling of and education about the plane's software, which led to hundreds of people dying.

Southwest says the grounding has meant it's lost $225 million in operating income. 

If you're an employee, you're already calculating what this might do to your profit sharing.

Airlines such as Southwest--ones that ask a little extra in terms of customer service--know that bonuses are extremely important.

Last year, Delta gave employees $1.3 billion dollars in bonuses, 10 times the bonus pool at American Airlines.

Southwest's bonus pool was $544 million.

So up stepped Southwest CEO Gary Kelly last week to offer his employees these important words about potential compensation from Boeing, as described by Bloomberg

We need to know what those monetary and other reimbursements will look like, and we're looking at ways to share proceeds, as appropriate, with all of you as we've done in the past with profit sharing.

Wait, Southwest is planning on giving employees a cut of the compensation?

That sounds insanely civilized.

Also, insanely wise.

If you really want committed employees--and remember, Southwest shows off their commitment in its advertising--then you need to anticipate their feelings about big issues and do the right thing.

Kelly explained his thoughts about the 737 MAX situation in these simple words: 

I recognize this hasn't just affected some of you, it has affected all of you.

Some employees will, of course, worry about the phrase "as appropriate."

But they can surely have at least a little confidence that their management hasn't quite forgotten what's important in the employees' minds. And in their families'.

All those flight attendant smiles and jokes are delivered in the expectation of respect and concrete benefits from their bosses, not just passenger satisfaction.

I wonder if other affected airlines will take the same approach.

I'm not sure that'll be the case.

Published on: Sep 15, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.