Past Performance No Guarantee of Future Value

Metathinq Employee Loyalty

One of our most important assets, of course, is our employees. When we find an employee that possess the necessary skills and a passion for our company, it’s a home run. The question is how will that employee loyalty hold up as the employee becomes more familiar with their job, management, and customers.

Will employee loyalty last?

What happens when you have a long-term employee who’s been loyal to your organization, but suddenly, his or her performance is not what it once used to be.

I’m working with a client who has an employee that has been with them since the start of their business nearly 15 years ago. For most of those years, the relationship had been a strong one. The employee doing quality work, and my client leaning on him as a “go-to guy”. For a long time, it was a marriage made in heaven.

As time has gone by, the employee has grown more and more comfortable. They have also noticed there’s been a change in the employee’s overall activity and productivity.

It started with the employee coming in late or leaving early from time to time. There has been an increase in “doctor” appointments for the employee and his family members and more “traffic” coming into work.

More recently the employee has been changing his schedule (he is a field technician) so that he could finish his day closer to home. Often the changes are made without letting dispatch know he has altered his schedule. These changes have impacted both customer satisfaction and project timelines for the business.

The Employer Viewpoint

I asked my client how he felt about the increase in unexcused absences and tardiness events. The answer was as you expect.

“I am not happy about it, but what are we going to do? (This employee) been loyal to us for such a long time, and even though it’s really impacting our business a lot, he has always been a good and loyal employee for a lot of years.”

“The biggest issue is the schedule changes that are reflecting poorly with our customers. They are not as patient when we arrive late, or no-showing. All we need is a quick call to dispatch so we can provide an update to the customer or make alternate plans. But that is not happening.”
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The Internal Conflict

At this point, I asked, “Well, how much is that loyalty worth to your business, and at what point does your pain outweigh that employee’s loyalty?”

I got looked at like I was crazy as if I was questioning whether this employee was really providing what the company needed.

“Are you questioning his value to us? He has been so loyal over the years.” replied my client

“Yes, I am. I hear the frustration and business impact you have described.” I said “You have shared that things have changed with the employee. Think of the situation like an investment portfolio, past performance does not guarantee future value. You need to get to the root of the problem, what has changed?”

I then asked my client if they had addressed this concern directly with the employee.

The response I received was, “Yeah, we’ve had conversations about it.”

I said, “Okay, but has anything been formalized? Have you written up this employee? Has there been any direct disciplinary action?”

The reply was, “No, we’ve talked about it, and let him know how we feel.”

At this point, I said to my client, “The problem is not the employee’s, it’s yours. You haven’t challenged this person directly. There has been no formal reprimand on the unexcused tardiness and no-show events. The result? Now you are feeling business impact. More importantly, you are feeling mistrust and that will eat at you until you address this situation.”

The pattern of declining employee loyalty

My client has let a pattern develop, he hasn’t called the employee out formally, he doesn’t have a clear resolution path. Additionally, my client feels angry, his good nature has been taken advantage of, and some trust has been lost.

His loyalty to the relationship at this stage outweighs that of his employee.

He is also at risk if he gets fed up and one day fires the employee. There is a risk of a wrongful termination lawsuit because there is no documentation of his previous policy violations.


Metathinq Employee Loyalty Odd Man Out

5 Steps you can take to get employee loyalty back on track

1. Address the situation: Be straight forward. Do not accuse the employee of any wrongdoing. Just let him know that what you’ve been witnessing and express how it is impacting the business and your perception of the relationship.

2. Give that employee an opportunity to explain his viewpoint: Maybe there are issues at home or he is facing a personal challenge. If that is the case, it provides you the opportunity to extend help and possibly repair the relationship.

The employee may no longer be happy in their work and is considering leaving. If that is the case, being direct may give you both time to plan an exit that is mutually beneficial. Try to make the conversation a win/win for both parties.

3. Restate your expectations: At the end of the meeting, assuming all parties wish to move forward, you must restate your job expectations. Make sure the employee is clear in understanding your expectations and how they relate to corporate policy and what disciplinary steps will be taken if not followed. Get a verbal contract of understanding from the employee and document this meeting with HR.

4. Be consistent: Two weeks later the employee is late again. What do you do? You must follow through and formally reprimand the employee. This will ensure that the employee understands the consequence of their actions and that you are not going to fall into the same pattern of behavior.

5. Keep records: Document each future incident. Ultimately not all situations will be successful, and in some cases, you might have to terminate the relationship with this employee. And it’s always important to make sure you have your house in order should they ever want to come back and challenge their termination.

It takes work

The problem with long-term relationships, whether they are in employment or in your personal life, is they can be taken for granted over time. If all parties do not put in an effort to keep the bond strong, employee loyalty can be challenged. The key is to keep an open line of communication, talk through problems before they spiral out of control, and be honest with each other. With a little work, a long-term relationship can be the greatest gift given any employer.

Have you successfully rebounded a working relationship that has gone sideways? Share your story and how you made it work in the comments below?

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