Maximizing a worker's productivity and loyalty may require teaching that person to budget and save money.
Breaking a nasty cycle of living paycheck to paycheck may be the key to grooming a more-productive, loyal employee.
Taking this step may be the most-sensitive, most-challenging decision a manager makes. After all, managers typically are trained not to interfere in a worker's personal life. The old axiom is that the worker's personal business is his or hers — no one else's.
However, the reality is that an employee's personal business surely becomes your business whenever it impedes the smooth operation of your tire dealership or service shop. Trying to recognize, clarify and then address this situation often is unpleasant, at best. Many times, the last thing an otherwise capable worker wants to admit to a boss is that personal affairs are hampering his or her performance on the job.
Regular readers know that I've traveled the country for years, reporting on the automotive repair industry, with most of my time spent out in the bays. In that process, I've met my share of sharp, talented repair people who are saddled with a glaring fault — they're immature. The most glaring symptom of this immaturity is their inability to hold onto a dollar from one paycheck to the next one.
You might assume that the perpetually broke employee would eventually wear out his or her welcome at a business, but amazingly, some techs manage to charm or bull shoot their way around indebtedness to coworkers. The other employees adapt to the routine of this tech grubbing a few bucks here, a few bucks there until the next pay day. In the grand scheme of life's problems, coworkers may think the tech's borrowing is a quirk, a harmless nuisance.
But in other cases, the situation is not harmless. I recall instances where alert managers and foremen became suspicious and began monitoring a worker's performance more closely. This revealed that the closer it got to pay day, the worse the worker's productivity slumped — not to mention the fact the lower the tech's wallet became, the more mistakes were made and the more comebacks caused.
Some bosses told me they could watch this immature worker's stress levels increase as pay day approached. Once he or she had money in pocket again, the tech whistled and became Mr. or Ms. Conviviality again — if only temporarily. Eventually, this emotional roller coaster took its toll on the staff, they explained.
Sadly, other instances become downright criminal because the immature worker began selling and recommending unneeded repairs. Many folks call this tactic “pencil-whipping” the work order or repair order. By the time a manager or foreman uncovered the ruse, the business' reputation was damaged.
Why? That's because a professional at another service facility discovered the misdeed first. Then that mechanic got even by blabbing this to everyone at the church picnic of the town's largest denomination.
I recall an extremely sharp, highly respected shop owner telling me about the biggest accomplishments of his 30-plus years running a business. One, he explained, was convincing a talented but immature tech to open a savings account. The tech's life changed dramatically for the better as soon as he began salting away part of every paycheck.
Solid leadership separates so-so businesses from the really successful ones. Sometimes, leadership requires taking the unpopular role of the surrogate parent or proverbial big brother to a wayward child or needy person. Ultimately, the effort may retain this worker and earn the additional respect of fellow employees.
Coaching someone to be more mature also is more satisfying than simply replacing that worker.
I welcome hearing about your own experiences being the “surrogate parent” or “older sibling.”