Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How's the Employee Morale at Your Workplace?
Morale of employees in the workplace is essential to the smooth running of any business.  More importantly, it is essential to the well-being of both employees and customers.

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.
This article was originally written with a different ending but I decided to revise it after a conversation with Doug yesterday afternoon.  He and Scott were supposed to work together yesterday morning (a Saturday).  Ten minutes after the store opened, Scott called in sick, claiming to have received food poisoning the night before at a local restaurant.  Doug immediately recognized the excuse as being one of Neal’s favorites.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  But Doug seems to think that Scott decided that if Neal can get away with calling in sick, he’ll try it too.  Double-negative-whammy for Doug, who doesn’t play those games.

Oh, did I mention that Scott has season tickets for the local university’s football season?  And that yesterday there was a home game?  Still believe in coincidence?

Morale at this hardware store is going down the tubes.  What began as one young man’s absorption in himself and his social life has now escalated to the point that a number other people are being significantly affected in unpleasant fashion.  The team-building efforts the firm prided itself on have eroded to the point that it’s every man for himself.

Everyone winds up losing:  (1) Neal, who is receiving the false impression that all employers will put up with his behavior; (2) Scott, who’ll eventually wind up getting reprimanded or fired when his behavior escalates.  Management might put up with their top-producing employee’s bad behavior but they won’t be able to afford to do the same when the second of three employees follows suit; (3) Doug, who does his job but hates the injustice--and who’s on the lookout for a new job; (4) Management, who, it now appears, will wind up having to replace three employees instead of just the one.

If you’re in the position of Doug or Scott, there isn’t much you can do about a situation like this.  If you’re Neal, and someone gives you a figurative kick in the butt, maybe morale can revert back to a time and place when it was good.  If you’re the store manager, you need to look closely at your workplace policies and how you treat your employees.  Is your turnover high?  Are your people unhappy?  You might want to do some research.  This store manager did his research but didn’t follow through by doing his homework.  Will you make the same mistake?

No comments:

Post a Comment