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The Company Without Consequences

Posted: June 9, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 7, 2013 2:13 p.m.

 

In junior high I was late to school exactly once. Every student knew that if you were late to class you had the dreaded “seventh period.” Sitting motionless, in total silence for an hour, on the day the infraction occurred, was the consequence for arriving late to class.

I learned to be on time because I hated the consequence.

Imagine you are on vacation and relying on an employee to open your business promptly for an important client. The client needs to pick-up something and the employee you count on arrives late. What happens?

Potentially, your business and personal relationship with this client could be damaged. It could also the impact the relationship your client has with their downstream relationships.

In this situation, you did what was expected, but the employee did not. Who suffers the consequences? You do. Your business does.  

Are there consequences for the employee? More often than not, there are none.

Today there are no substantial consequences for an employee who fails to do their job properly, effectively, efficiently, professionally. Many owners simply bite their tongue when it comes to speaking to employees about consequences.

It doesn’t matter if the issue is being on time to work, using company resources improperly, not doing their jobs consistently well, or simply working at all.

Employees who are not confronted by consequences will do whatever they can get away with, for as long as they can get it away with it, and will continue to push boundaries until such time as someone confronts them and pushes back with strong and consistent enforcement of company policies and procedures. 

Years ago an older brother of mine was put on probation by his employer. The probationary period was ninety days and in that period he needed to do certain things or he would lose his job.

My brother complained to everyone around him about how he was being singled out, the action wasn’t fair, that he was a good employee and could not understand why this was happening to him.

The company was simply enforcing the consequences that my brother knew full well would happen if he did not perform. 

A friend of the family who worked in HR elsewhere told me that the company was actually interested in having my brother be successful. The company saw my brother as having considerable unrealized potential.

If the company was not interested in saving your brother the friend said, they would have simply let him go. 

My brother’s employer had clear expectations and enforced them. This company actually “inspected what they expected” and took action when things got off course.

I’ve witnessed situations where the owner of the company is too close to managers and employees to have difficult conversations and to set and enforce consequences.

I am not saying that these owners want to be popular with their employees. I am saying that these owners fail to set and enforce policies consistently in their own companies.

What happens is ongoing underperformance, a lack of discipline and the onset of apathy and indifference. Just look at your profit and loss statement for the areas of potential negative impact.

Each of us has had mentors and teachers in our lives making a positive impact on us. I’m willing to bet the ones we remember the most fondly were the ones who were firm but fair, demanding yet understanding, and held us to a higher standard of performance.

Put another way, consequences were clear and enforced. What was expected was inspected. Don’t you owe that to your employees?

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with small and midsize business owners to grow top line revenue. He can be reached at KenKeller@SBCglobal.net. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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