Should more bosses write letters to an employee’s parents like PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi?

Indra Nooyi, Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo, in an interview on March 9, 2015. Adam Jeffery/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Sometimes parents just need a reminder they’re doing a good job with raising their kids – and PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi has no problem being that reminder.

According to MSNBC, Nooyi – who’s been the company’s CEO since Oct. 2006 – writes over 400 letters a year to the parents of her senior executives acknowledging their hard work in raising their successful sons or daughters.

The idea stemmed from an experience she had while visiting her mother in India when Nooyi first became PepsiCo’s CEO, she told The David Rubenstein Show in December.

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“When I got home and I sat in the living room, a stream of visitors and random people started to show up,” Nooyi recounts. “They’d go to my mom and say, ‘You did such a good job with your daughter. Compliments to you. She’s CEO.’ But not a word to me.”

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That’s when Nooyi realized she was a product of her upbringing.

“My parents should get the credit,” Nooyi says. “It’s what they did for me and to me that allowed me to be who I was that day, and it occurred to me that I never thanked the parents of my executives for the gift of their child to PepsiCo.”

Nooyi also says she’ll occasionally write letters to the employees themselves discussing a range of emotional and personal subjects.

“For example, my kids were going to college and I wrote a personal letter to everybody saying ‘I’m going through tremendous separation angst,’” she says. “Or if I felt our employees were not calling their parents often, I’ll write a letter about why it’s important they call their parents.”

The reason for doing this, Nooyi says, is because she wants her employees to know her as a person rather than just an executive.

Her idea seems to have paid off because her Glassdoor rating currently sits at 75 per cent, the jobs and recruiting website reports.

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So is this type of manager-employee relationship something that could catch on?

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It looks like it.

According to a 2015 Gallup survey of 7,200 people, workers are three time more likely to be engaged and enthusiastic about their jobs if their managers hold regular meetings and interact with them on a daily basis – not just about work, but about their personal lives as well.

“A productive workplace is one in which employees feel safe enough to experiment, challenge, share information and support one another,” the study says. “The best managers get to know their employees and help them feel comfortable talking about any subject, whether it is work related or not.”

Another 2015 poll by Harris Poll echoed those results.

Not asking about employees’ lives outside of work was among the top complaints employees have about their managers (23 per cent).

“The data shows that the vast majority of leaders are not engaging in crucial moments that could help employees see them as trustworthy,” Lou Solomon, CEO of consulting agency Interact, writes in Harvard Business Review. “Too often, businesses fall short not because leaders don’t understand the business, but because they don’t understand what the people who work for them need in order to bring their best effort to work.”


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