During a conversation I once had with Mike O’Neil of Davis and Associates—an employee administration company—he told that there are two types of employers:
1. Those who distrust and expect every employee to take advantage of them,
2. Those who trust everyone and expect nothing but the best from their workers.
Mike and I agreed that both points of view are dead wrong!
Some employees are completely loyal, honest and dedicated to their employer. Others will take advantage any chance they get. But most employees fall somewhere in the middle.
They want to be treated with decency, respect, and dignity. If their employer treats them this way, they’ll return the favor. But if their employer treats them poorly, abuses them or disrespects them, it’s not too surprising if the employee returns the favor!
There are several issues here: how do you walk that tightrope between too nice and too not nice? You need to keep good employees happy and on board. And you need to make sure the bad ones—and they are out there—don’t take advantage of you.
I like the old cold war phrase “trust but verify.” President Reagan used it during disarmament to make sure the Russians were taking down their missiles. For an employer, it means lightening up and giving your staff a little freedom and control. Trust them to do the right thing, but have the controls and accountability measures in place to keep from being taken advantage of.
Ron Roberts is the owner of The Contractor’s Business Coach, a firm that works with contractors to organize a construction business with growth producing systems while developing sales, leadership, and financial management skills.
Give Credit Where Credit is Due
You can’t win by assuming all employees are lazy and dishonest. The company who has successfully delegated the greatest amount of decision to the front line will have the lowest cost. That is a cold hard fact. Another cold hard fact is that employers who distrust their employees almost always micromanage and interfere. That drives up costs by slowing down decision making and increasing errors.
Not only that, good workers can’t stand to be micromanaged. It is demeaning and disrespectful. Good workers will leave at the first opportunity that comes their way. Should you know someone who is wired to believe most employees are not trustworthy, please encourage him to do a little soul searching. He needs to turn over a new leaf before it’s too late. Let’s move on to the right minded owner, the one who knows most of his employees can be trusted with reasonable checks and balances.
The Three Types of Employees
Every labor pool is made up of a combination of Superstars, Average Joes, and Slugs. The typical breakdown is about 15% – 65% – 20%.
1 or 2 out of 10 employees will be Superstars—highly productive, hard working, excellent representative(s) of your company, and the type of employee(s) you crave everyone to be.
2 out of 3 employees will be Average Joes—steady, reliable, and generally dependable. They will require more communication than you like and will not work as fast as you think they should. Their performance will be quite predictable and, for the most part, they keep your company chugging along. Believe it or not, they are the backbone of most companies.
1 out of 5 employees will be worthless Slugs. If you let them, they will take up 50% of your time. They require constant hand-holding and oversight. They never get much done and what they do get done often involves numerous errors. Most of this group doesn’t set out to undermine your company, they just do.
The idea of Trust but Verify fits perfectly for the Average Joes and even the Superstars. All you should have to do with the Superstars is to double check their priorities and their direction. The Average Joes need more ongoing, hands-on verification. Still, over time, you will get to know each of them well enough to know where they are most likely to go off the tracks.
Dealing with Bad Employees
What to do with the slugs?
Weed them out.
What is that you said? Oh yeah, we’ve all heard it before. Where will you find their replacement? What you replace them with could be worse than what you have. Better the evil you know than the evil you don’t, right?
Slugs not only slow down your company and rob you of precious time, they demoralize your Superstars and Average Joes. Even if you’ve got the temperament to deal with the slugs, your other employees don’t. Cut them a break and remove the cancer.