I was talking with a fellow recently about the disintegrating morale in his workplace. Here are the details: Doug, in his late forties and married, is one of three customer service reps in a hardware store. He’s been working there for about a year. Scott, in his mid-thirties and married, has been working at the store for about five years. Neal, not yet twenty-one and single, has been working at the store for about four years.
Neal, who does a great job and actually produces more sales than Doug and Scott combined (when he shows up for work and is in shape to do his job), has some issues. He calls in sick a lot. Some excuses he’s used during the past six months are: food poisoning, the flu, stomach viruses, and a car accident. (The car accident excuse is the only one Doug knows for sure is true: Neal had the staples in his head to show for it.) He’s also had a DUI that required quite a bit of time off from work.
In addition to all this, Neal has a regular Wednesday night social gathering with his friends. He invariably shows up late on Thursday smelling like a brewery, subsequently praying to the porcelain god all morning. The store manager has supposedly “written Neal up” for some of his offenses, which include not showing up for work on several Mondays after holiday weekends, not calling ahead when he knows he’ll be late, and not showing up on several of the Saturday mornings he’s been scheduled to work. The store manager took Doug and Scott out to lunch for the specific purpose of obtaining their input abut Neal and his behavior, which he claimed was “out of control.” Seems that some of the customers reported noticing Neal’s repeated tardiness, absences, and alcohol use.
Doug and Neal are frustrated. So are the customers. I’m sure the store manager is extremely frustrated. It’s the store’s busiest time of year: firing an employee, especially the one with the highest sales, will seriously impact everyone. But the store manager’s decision to send Neal home for a day or two without pay to think things over after pulling one of his stunts doesn’t seem to be a significant enough form of discipline to convince Neal to change his ways.
I see this entire situation as a nightmare with the potential for a number of serious negative consequences. The store has an employee handbook, which clearly outlines the penalties of unacceptable behavior. If management isn’t following through with procedures as outlined in the handbook, they’re leaving themselves wide open for a number of things. First of all, mutiny. Other employees aren’t going to appreciate the special treatment Neal is receiving. It seems that bad behavior is being rewarded and good behavior is being overlooked. Then, there’s setting a precedent: not disciplining an employee per written procedures. This could result in a lawsuit if, at a later date, management disciplines another employee for an offense that Neal—or anyone else—committed and wasn’t disciplined for. Someone needs to take the store manager aside and convince him to look into the future when handling employee issues rather than handling them based upon what’s most expedient at the moment.