A technician who errs should be responsible for the mistake and the comeback it causes.
Ultimately, forcing another technician to correct this gaffe is a foolish business practice as well as an employee-relations disaster.
Over the years, I have met many "fix-it" technicians while reporting on the automotive repair industry. The fix-it person is the competent, even-tempered tech who does a job correctly the first time.
Meanwhile, bosses also lean on this same tech to save botched repair jobs. For one reason or another, owners and managers make this tech straighten out something a co-worker fouled up.
By rights, the fix-it person should not exist. By rights, every tech should be responsible for his or her output and the quality of that work.
But years of first-hand observations have convinced me that bosses created this role because it's easier than addressing the root causes of repair blunders. Shifting the blame elsewhere — to the fix-it tech — is much less hassle than coaching a needy technician to improve his or her skills.
Mistakes — and the comebacks they cause — usually occur because techs lack one or more of the following: Training, skill, discipline and equipment.
Now all these elements may be present, but the boss cannot or does not screen the potential jobs carefully. Or perhaps he demands far too much of competent techs.
For instance, a boss may insist that a tech finish a several-hour job in 45 minutes.
OK, let's focus on basic, proven business practices and then examine potential employee-relations issues. One critical measurement of an automotive service department is productivity. The common definition of productivity is labor hours sold divided by available labor hours.
Suppose your business offers auto repair for 50 hours per week. Theoretically, then, each tech has 50 labor hours to offer per week.
If you invoice or sell 50 hours of labor per technician per week, then each tech's productivity is 100 percent. That's excellent.
Tech efficiency is another vital measurement. A common definition of efficiency is labor hours sold divided by the time actually required to perform the repair.
Suppose a tech spends one hour fixing a vehicle. Then you actually charge an hour's labor for that job. If so, then the tech's efficiency on that task was 100 percent. That's excellent, too.
But some service shop owners and tire dealers seem to treat mistakes and the related comebacks as unavoidable facts of life.
Whenever techs bungle repair jobs and cause comebacks, the company wastes precious time: Mistakes are fixed for free regardless of which tech the boss assigns to that task.
The cold, hard fact is that free time is wasted time. In turn, wasted time simply murders productivity and efficiency.
Last but not least, consider the potential impact on employee relations and overall team morale.
For example, the fix-it tech I described earlier is a competent worker and reliable earner. Yes, a boss may saddle a good tech with correcting another worker's mistakes, but experience shows that this tech may tolerate that maneuver for so long before he or she begins looking for a new job.
What's more, morale always suffers when loyal, capable employees realize that incompetent co-workers get away with their mistakes. When mistake-prone workers suffer no sanctions or repercussions for their errors, it telegraphs that the boss doesn't hold everyone to the same standard.
It's difficult to build long-term loyalty whenever employees sense that coworkers get preferential treatment.
Mistakes can and do occur, but ultimately, responsibility for those blunders rests on the shoulders of the people who made those mistakes.
Part of leading a successful team is recognizing and addressing ongoing mistakes. Genuine leadership calls for counseling and coaching workers.
What's more, it may require a manager to make tough decisions such as demanding that someone shape up or ship out.
Maintaining a reasonably level playing field for employees is one of the keys to earning their trust and loyalty. It's difficult to put a dollar value on trust and loyalty.