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When Good Guys Take a Bad Turn.
by: Ellen Rohr

I had 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.

Last 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 should know.”

Story continues below ↓

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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 the owners.

“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 and professionally.

“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 their companies.

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 to.

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.

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