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Updated: Jul 25, 2022

People leaders often wonder how to build trust and brand loyalty in employees. It always starts with the organisation's culture. The culture is what permeates the organisation whether its employees are working from home or from the office. It is revealed by how employees are treated, even when the spotlight isn't on. Much like character is revealed by how you treat others when you don’t think they can do anything for you. This is where we most have the potential for self development and growth. It is where we groom our allyship, intolerance for injustice, mindful exercises of inclusion, discretion, loyalty and sense of self worth. Amazingly, it also contributes to our resilience.

Let’s break it down with the Happiness Continuum using a movie that helped shape a lot of my life. “Pretty Woman”


Edward meets Vivian, a sex worker. He is lost and asks for directions. She accepts to direct him, but at a fee (she needs money for Rent). They get talking and he is intrigued by her. So intrigued, he invites her to stay the night. Edward, having recently broken up with his girlfriend needs a companion who will accompany him on dates, be at his beck and call with no emotional entanglements. He has a moment of genius and hires Vivian to be his companion for the week. It is within this period that we see how good intentions could backfire if not conscientiously implemented and create ripple effects of kindness or unkindness.

The materials for Happiness are Basic Needs, Autonomy, Mastery and Inclusion. The equipments are Purpose, Meaning, Positivity and Pleasure. In building Happiness, we cannot overlook any of these. Our Basic Needs depend on where we are in life. For example, the movie starts with Vivian needing to pay rent, while Edward needed a companion with no emotional entanglements. We observe their Basic Needs change as the movie progresses.

It’s not often you find a movie that addresses so many relevant issues in one blockbuster, lip stretching, aww inducing and tear jerking movie. Edward is like Management. At the top, so used to people giving and showing him what he wants to see, so quick and decisive in making decisions and taking actions, that he didn’t realise how his decisions and the privilege he takes for granted affects others. He gives Vivian a job, a huge wardrobe allowance, extra perks which include fine dining at exclusive restaurants and even a visit to the Opera.

However, his best intentions are not conscientiously applied. He hadn’t realised there’s a marked difference between being nice and being supportive. Between being collaborative and being dictatorial.

Let’s examine some of the oversights that threatened the Happiness he was building.

Basic Needs: Edward knew Vivian needed clothes for outings with him. He failed to consider that she needed to be armed with more than just cash. She needed some sort of onboarding with the hotel and the shops.

Autonomy: A major theme of the movie is Autonomy. Vivian and Kit are often heard stating: “we say who, we say when, we say how”. Edward in a jealous moment told his attorney that Vivian was a hooker. Even though he instantly regretted his actions, this moment created a riptide of unkindness, bullying and molestation. Edward didn’t expect Vivian to react as she did, but good on her, her actions lead us to reflect on what went wrong. It was an act of micro-aggression that gave the green light to his attorney, Stuckey to proposition her, hit her and try to rape her.

Mastery: Edward took it for granted that Vivian would know the etiquette of fine dining and ordered escargot. She didn’t even know the difference between a salad fork and and a starter fork. (to be honest, neither do I. Haha.) But, a cheering moment here is when we see a practise of kindness and inclusion by Mr James Morse, the dinner companion and owner of the business Edward was aggressively trying to take over, Mr Morse makes a self denigrating joke about cutlery and proceeds to eat with his hands.

Inclusion: Even though Vivian was his invited guest, Edward didn’t think to inform the hotel of her presence. He also didn’t share much essential personal details like his full name, to make it easier for her to integrate. Even though it was put as a joke, he didn’t want her answering the phone.

The great thing about this movie is how the characters learn valuable lessons as they go along. Lessons in compassion (as seen with the shop attendants who wouldn’t attend to Vivian because she wasn’t ‘well dressed”. The look of absolute shame on their faces when Vivian returns to show off . . . priceless), to Edward learning a lesson in collaboration, inclusion, loyalty and friendship, Vivian learning self confidence and rethinking her life choices.

The theme of Mastery runs throughout the movie, taking the viewer along with it. We learn with the characters. A great example of Experiential Learning.

To build your employees loyalty, start with the culture. Find out your culture by:

  • Running an anonymous survey

  • Speaking to past employees

  • Researching your own organisation on Glassdoor and other like sites (social listening)

To create an inclusive, nurturing and supportive culture, that promotes trust and loyalty, here are the lessons from Pretty Woman in bullets:

  • Communication (Ask, Listen, Acknowledge, Validate)

  • Mutual Respect

  • Boundaries

  • Trust

  • Support

What movies have taught you valuable life lessons? Please share, so we can check it out and learn too.


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