When Good Guys Take a Bad Turn.
by: Ellen Rohr
high hopes for Wayne*. He is young and ambitious. He
aced his Trade Tech schooling and was becoming a sales
and technical leader at his company. Prior to last
night, I would have described him as an example of the
brightest and best of our industry.
night I heard that Wayne had taken the company truck to
a party, had a few drinks, and then caused a serious
accident on his way home. He’s now unemployed and
talking to a lawyer. Sigh.
Raise your hand if you have a similar story involving
someone who worked at your company. I thought so. I’ve
heard this story too many times. Could we have seen it
coming? Is there something we could’ve done to prevent
such tragedy? It breaks my heart that Wayne is going
down the wrong path. Of course, Wayne bears the
responsibility for his actions. Still…
What can we do to help?
We can create a positive environment. Is your shop a
place where good performance is rewarded and bad
behavior is weeded out? When a new hire arrives, he will
determine, right away, if this is a company that will
support his decision to do good things. Or, if this is a
company where he can buy and do drugs. Or call in sick
at the last minute and still keep his job. He will
determine that because the other people at your shop
will want to get him up to speed about the culture of
your shop. “Hey, this is how things are here…and you
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People who want a safe place to work, where people show
up clean, sober, on-time and dressed right, will be
attracted to a shop where these behaviors are valued.
Unless you demonstrate otherwise, team members will
expect that there are negative consequences for people
who don’t comply with your established and enforced
social mores. Start with these basics…
• Play it Straight. Establish tight drug testing
procedures. Test people prior to the second interview,
when hired and randomly for all team members, including
• “Me and You” Time. Spend time learning about
team members’ families. Learn about their dreams and
hobbies and what they like to do on their days off.
Relationships take time to develop. Invest in your
people…and commit to helping them develop, personally
• “Here’s what’s in this for you.” Have a
structured formal Salary Ladder with clear guidelines
for moving up the pay scale. Have a bonus program that
honors ethical sales and on-time, on-budget production.
• “Here’s how to get fired.” Let them know where
the line is. Being intoxicated at work (or in a company
truck!) or lying or stealing is grounds for immediate
dismissal. For other operational responsibilities – like
showing up on time - you can adopt a process like…
o First offense – Verbal Warning.
o Second – Written Warning.
o Third – Suspension.
o Fourth – There’s the door.
Progressive Discipline is a way to help someone turn
around when they start walking down a bad path.
• Make it safe to fail and get back up. If you
have written up an employee, follow through if necessary
on the next transgression. If the employee keeps his
nose clean, expunge his record after six months.
Celebrate back-on-track behavior.
Is it too late?
You can’t prevent every tragedy. However, we can pay
more attention. Maybe, just maybe, we could catch the
next Wayne before he takes a turn for the worse.
*Not Wayne’s real name.
About the Author
Ellen Rohr The Business Makeover Expert® teaches the few
things that make all the difference to your business
success: Easy financial clean up, profitable pricing
and powerful business planning. Ellen nearly sank her
own family’s business. Then, she learned how to keep
track of the money and make more of it. In turn, she has
helped thousands of business owners start, fix and grow
Ellen is a columnist for
Huffington Post, PHC News, and a contributor to many
business journals and trade magazines. She provides “in
the trenches” insight that business owners can relate
Ellen is the author
of four business basics books:
Where Did the Money Go?,
How Much Should I Charge?,
The Bare Bones Biz Plan and The
Weekend Biz Plan.