Loyalty can pay for both sides
unfortunate part about being an employer is that it requires employees.
The unfortunate part about being a
father is that it requires children.
On the other hand, if I was
employeeless, I’d be out of business. If I was childless, I’d be
traveling to. . .well, let’s not think about that.
So like it or not, and I generally like
it, I have 50 employees and four children. Except when my energy level is
low. Then it seems that I have four employees and 50 children.
Both need constant nurturing. Both give
you great pleasure and pride. Both give you major headaches. And both
Yet I’m not one to give soapy
speeches about our company being "one big happy family." There
are some major differences, such as my children would never sue me for
When I fire my kids, they’ll know I
was right. What got me thinking about all this were a couple of incidents
involving key management personnel.
These two people, Biff and Tweetie, had
been with me for more than five years, enough time to develop a strong
bond of loyalty between us.
They had worked their way up from the
bottom to key management positions. They had contributed an enormous
amount of time, energy and expertise over the years and had been well
compensated for their results.
The problem was that after years of
climbing, they were now heading in the opposite direction.
Their enthusiasm and energy for their
jobs had "burned out." They were drifting.
Biff would come in late, Tweetie often
not at all, but always with an excuse. Jobs would get done, but it would
take twice the time as before. New ideas, which in their rise had come
daily, now came monthly, if at all.
Ridiculous, careless mistakes were
increasing in number. I would catch some and I shudder to think of the
ones I missed. Something had to be done.
But what? We were talked out. There had
been warnings, pep talks, concern. . .all met with half-hearted
affirmations from Biff and Tweetie that their performance would improve.
There would be a mild surge of energy
for a week or two, and then they would drift back into
It got to the point where I had to
balance loyalty versus the need for improvement. I was convinced someone
else could perform their jobs better. So do I throw Biff and Tweetie out
on the streets in these difficult economic times?
Not yet. There was one last hope –
I switched Biff with another manager,
putting Biff in charge of a store that did half the volume of the one he
had lost interest in.
Poor Biff, I thought, what a slap in
the face. Devastated by his humiliating demotion, he would angrily sulk
for a few weeks and then quit, realizing he was being phased out.
Moving him to another store was like a breath of fresh air for Biff. He
had simply been overwhelmed with his previous position, although he would
never admit it. There was so much to do, so many ways to turn, that all he
could do was spin.
With the small store, he had focus.
Ideas jumped at him. Biff suggested and implemented more improvements in
three days in his new position than he had in three months in his old
position. His job and responsibilities had changed, and so had Biff. It
was obvious he once again loved his work.
As for Tweetie, I could have promoted
her to Chairwomen Emeritus or demoted her to Chief Bathroom Cleaner and it
wouldn’t have mattered. It was simply very clear she was not interested
in working 40 hours per week no matter what the position.
She had too many other interests, among
them a new baby at home. Work had increasingly become a labor of anguish.
She was always tired, making mistakes, lacking enthusiasm.
I knew she could do the essential tasks
I needed done in less than half the time, if properly motivated. I
suggested she try part-time work, and she eagerly accepted.
I save on salary, she saves on anguish.
Everyone’s happy except Tweetie’s husband, who may be forced into a
life of crime to make ends meet.
Two employees, two different solutions,
Loyalty won this round. That’s good.