Family commitment and work ethic are not mutually exclusive values. Contrary to what we hear from the politically correct vanguard, concerns for family and work should complement, rather than conflict with, each other. Conversations with tire dealers and service personnel alike have convinced me this message needs to be restated for the confused, misguided and/or uninformed.
Don't think I'm anti-family. Regular readers know I prod bosses to develop a work atmosphere that's conducive to attracting stable, family-oriented workers, and to provide family-oriented perks and benefits wherever possible.
When a fellow lets his wife nag him incessantly, he's known as a hen-pecked husband. If I may coin a new phrase, ``worker-pecked'' describes a boss who lets employees badger him about every care and worry-including family problems.
My most recent encounter with a worker-pecked tire store owner occurred last winter at an industry gathering. The man asked me for suggestions on setting up staff meetings that every worker would be able to attend. I said some bosses establish a set time for staff meetings, give everyone adequate notice and then expect everyone to show up.
Others do what I used to do: Poll the staff to determine their preferences-mornings, lunch hour, weeknights after closing etc. Then choose the meeting time that gets the most votes and stick with it.
The philosophy behind this move is that it improves morale by making people feel more involved in the shop's operation and decisions. Another benefit is that it reduces the amount of grousing that staff meeting notices generate.
After discussing schedules with this owner for several minutes, it was evident that he was struggling simply to appease one prima donna on his staff. This worker insisted that coming in early or staying late any day was a major imposition on his family.
Readers of TIRE BUSINESS who have coddled a prima donna worker know that tailoring business activities around one worker's wishes is unwise. This breed of favoritism creates ill will among fellow workers. Inevitably, you realize it would have been easier and less aggravating to let the employee leave when an opportunity arose-and then recruit a new one and start over.
For some workers, the family issue is a clever and convenient excuse, because ``family values'' are a sacrosanct, unassailable concept in this era of political correctness. If you challenge the employee's motives, you're branded a cold-hearted heel.
Meanwhile, some employees who do have genuine concern for their families lack perspective. Somewhere, they were taught that because they have a pulse and they're American citizens, they're entitled to have children.
To them, factors such as mental preparedness, care-giving arrangements, earning power, time management skills and leadership ability are not issues. Merely wanting a family automatically justifies having kids.
Some workers couldn't orchestrate a one-man picnic. For them, getting to work on time is the biggest challenge of the day. Having children only adds to their chaos.
Other folks think they're organized until a new baby arrives and turns their schedules and the household upside down.
I began spelling ``child'' differently after I became a parent. That word became two new ones: responsibility and sacrifice. (New child, new neighborhood, strange faces, no relatives or friends nearby-I've been there!)
So, I recommend reviewing several points with those workers who complain about chronic work/family conflicts.
First: Parents' prime responsibility is providing food, shelter, and clothing. Because these things cost money, a good job and predictable income are basic necessities.
Second: A healthy and successful business is the foundation for a job-and whatever degree of job security possible-that yields these necessities. Reliable employees are one of the building blocks of successful businesses.
Third: Fair is fair. An employee who is truly concerned for his family and genuinely values his job should meet his employer halfway when work and family schedules conflict.
Fourth: Auto repair is a mentally demanding trade that requires constant study and update training. Workers must be prepared to handle some evening and Saturday classes each year.
Fifth: Ongoing study and training enhance job security by increasing workers' value to the service department.