Does Talent Outweigh the Trouble Trouble-Makers Bring?

August 30, 2011 by  Filed under: Management 

I told my doctor that I broke my leg in two places. He told me to stop going to those two places.
(Henny Youngman)

It’s a ridiculous concept; that we would return time and time again to a place where we know we are going to get hurt, but I submit to you that in business, we do it all the time. You can spot a broken leg via x-ray (and sometimes even without one); but the injuries I’m talking about don’t show up to the naked eye, which may be why we neither treat nor work to prevent them. What am I talking about? We constantly allow individuals within our businesses to ‘injure’ or even ‘kill’ initiatives, employee morale, customer relations and more.

Under the auspices of loyalty to employees or the value we perceive they bring to the business, we overlook, make excuses for, tolerate and even facilitate cynicism, narcissism, gossip, turf wars and negativism from a few employees. You know who I’m talking about- the employees who regularly pooh-pooh your marketing and event ideas, who belittle, cut down and minimize the accomplishments of others out of envy, who flaunt their disdain for rules by ignoring the standards you try to set for employees in the areas of appearance, timeliness, productivity, retail sales, etc.

If there were such a ridiculous place in your life (like, say a grocery store) where you knew you would always receive an injury, how often would you go there? How many times can you allow others to injure your business or injure employees or customers?

Were you to do a cost-analysis of this type of behavior, you would likely find that the damage these individuals are doing to your business, to their co-workers, and to your customer-relations far outweighs the (real or perceived) value you believe they bring to your business.

Employer loyalty is a wonderful quality; but is it fair to extend loyalty to individuals who do not return that spirit through their actions in support of your initiatives, in support of their co-workers, in productivity and professional growth? Not only is it unfair to you and to your business, it is also unfair for the other individuals who have to work with them, and, ultimately, it is extremely unfair to expect your customers to extend loyalty to you when the services and care you provide for them is compromised by these individuals.

But (you say) we’re talking about people, and people aren’t all good or all bad, and some of them have great skills and long-time clients that my business can’t afford to lose. Yes, we are talking about people and yes, many times highly flawed people are also incredibly talented; but let me put it another way.

Let’s say you have an acquaintance that cooks a wonderful lunch, the best lunch you’ve ever had. But every time you go there for lunch, you are assured of receiving a sucker punch to the gut, a kick in the chins, or a slap in the face. How often would you want to lunch there, no matter how spectacular the food? This is how it feels for other employees when they are the target of belittling comments or gossip from other employees. This is how it feels for customers when they are mistreated in the salon. This is how you probably feel when you go into a staff meeting excited about a new idea, only to have the negative person on your staff blow it all to pieces.

Furthermore, as you have probably heard before, you should reward behavior you want more of. By rewarding those who exhibit defiance, discourteous behavior, disdain and negativity, you are ensuring that you will receive more of the same behavior. You are also demonstrating to other employees that these techniques work; not only are you discouraging employees who are excited about their work and your business, you are also showing those who may have similar negative inclinations that this behavior is acceptable and effective.

Am I advocating a slash and burn employment policy? No. But I am suggesting that those rare individuals who cannot be persuaded to bring a spirit of positive support (or at least neutrality!) to the workplace where your marketing and client-relations ideas are concerned, who will not endorse your policies and standards, and who regularly hurt other employees or even offend clients themselves, are in the wrong place.

First, they are in the wrong place on the inside. They should be in a profession and in a business that they can endorse intellectually and philosophically. They should be excited about their work and should be just as enthusiastic to try a new marketing technique or hold a new event as they are to practice a new cut or color style. They should be able to extend congratulations and encouragement to their co-workers in the same way that they would want to be supported. They should be in a place where they are comfortable adhering to standards of dress, conduct, and interpersonal communications.

If not, then they are in the wrong place on the outside. They need to be encouraged either to discover whether they can change ‘where they are’ on the inside, or to change where they are on the outside. Your obligation to sustain and grow your business, and to protect and develop your other employees outweighs the obligation you believe you have to retain an employee who is in ‘the wrong place.’

Elizabeth Kraus, Author, 365 Days of Marketing
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