Loyalty: To Give Is To Get

Loyalty: To Give Is To Get

What do you do when a long-term employee suddenly breaks the rules? Contributor Troy Clogg offers a solution with a win-win outcome.

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January 18, 2019
In our industry, loyalty is frequently used like this: “Darn customers/employees! They have no loyalty!” And I’ve caught myself uttering this a time or two over the years. What I’ve learned, though, is when we feel betrayed, cheated on, taken advantage of, we should simply ask: “What could I have done differently?”

A recent example in our business involved a long-time team member and attendance issues. Now, to be clear, this was more than the average team member and more than the average attendance issue. The team member has been with us for more than 10 years and is a hard-working foreman. His achievements earned him many weeks of paid vacation and additional personal time -- both paid and unpaid. All we ask is for clear communication for when you need time off.

So, after this employee had used a week of paid time off, he missed the first Monday back. He called in and had a story but didn’t show up. This pattern of behavior continued for a full week, at which time he had taken two weeks off, and to make matters worse it was peak season.

Now, he could have followed our policy manual, which states that we expect and deserve clear communication. Guess it was time to let him go? After all, he had accumulated a few days of no show-no call, a few days of “reasons,” etc. Either way, he had broken numerous rules, policies, and cultural norms.

As the owner, I first hear this story about now in the timeline (the previous paragraphs have already occurred) and his manager asked me if should we let him go? After I heard the story, all I thought of was: “What is going on in this man’s life? What was he afraid or worried about sharing?” Either way, I simply suggested our manager ask what we did to deserve being treated this way?”

See, it is important to understand loyalty. Our personal behaviors align with our priorities, and not all of us are willing to share our personal loyalties. In this case, the manager asked these questions, found out more about this individual’s personal life and what he had been focusing on for the past couple weeks. He found out this man needed a bit more time off to deal with his situation and that his heart was still with us, he just didn’t know how to come to his manager with his personal issues. He wanted to keep home separate from work. And if it was going to cost him his job and over 10 years seniority/respect, then it was worth the sacrifice.

The next chapter of this story is awesome. After the heart-to-heart a plan was created to integrate the employee back into the company without creating waves with fellow team members. Not long after he was back with the team kicking butt and taking names, servicing customers and, most importantly, having fun, healthy and loving experiences day in and day out. And most importantly, life at home is smooth again.  

Here was a man who had been very loyal to his work family. He had also been loyal to his blood family. When he felt backed into a corner, he chose his blood ties over his work family. I can’t blame him one bit.

Now, an average or untrained manager might have gotten mad, upset, frustrated and then fired him. A leader or leader-in-training thought to look deeper for a solution. He was focused on what was right, and not what was wrong.

He sought more than one option/opinion and then he asked for a face-to-face meeting on the team member’s terms. He asked one specific question: “What did we do to lose your respect?” From there, the conversation opened up. Today, they are closer than ever, respect each other more than ever and are back in the field pleasing customers, getting compliments, building award winning work, taking care of their work and home families.

They took loyalty to the next step. They were advocates for each other and for the culture of our team.

A 2010 Leadership Award recipient, Troy Clogg is the Founder and President of Troy Clogg Landscape Associates and a frequent Snow Magazine contributor.