Treat each worker the way he or she deserves to be treated rather than pretending all employees are the same.
Recognizing how each worker deserves to be treated doesn't require rocket science, in my opinion. Simply observing their behavior over a period of time suffices. Then make the appropriate written or mental notes about it.
Employees typically telegraph how they deserve to be treated — no ifs, ands or buts about it. Some of them earn the proverbial good graces, and others do not.
That's why some bosses extend various courtesies to specific workers and not to others. Call the perks what you will — bennies, favors, kindnesses, etc.
The bottom line is that some employees earn these things, while others may remain clueless about the process. Not only are they unable to find the path to perks, they actually irritate co-workers with an arrogant sense of self-entitlement.
It's ironic that the selfish, oblivious person is often the one griping that his or her boss doesn't treat everyone on the crew equally.
I meet owners and managers who work overtime — literally and figuratively — seeking ways to coax the best from every member of the crew. This is an admirable effort that reflects leadership.
But experience has shown that very talented, capable workers may struggle to achieve reasonable competence at human relationships. In fact, they may need to work toward this goal all their lives. (That may sound funny, but it's actually sad.)
On the one hand, it's not the boss' fault that a worker is somewhat — perhaps very — immature and self-centered. Likely, someone hired this person based on factors such as education, experience, referrals, etc.
An owner or manager may not see these negative traits until he or she has worked with the new hire for a while.
On the other hand, it's very much the boss' fault if he or she fails to recognize these undesirable manners and tries to resolve them for the benefit of the business.
At the very least, perhaps try to minimize bad manners that offend other employees and dampen the overall work atmosphere. (Remember that workers spend more time at your tire dealership or service shop than they do at home.)
Unfortunately, some owners and managers I encounter seem focused solely on equality. This means decisions that yield equal treatment for all team members. These bosses assert that "equal treatment" equals fairness.
In reality, life is not fair. It may appear particularly unfair when it concerns a group of unequal human beings who make up a tire dealership's or service shop's staff.
You see, these employees bring unequal levels of dedication, professionalism, courtesy and kindness to work with them. This creates an unavoidably uneven playing field for them.
A boss should clarify his or her approach at a team meeting or during individual conversations with crew members. Politely but firmly explain that each worker's ongoing actions and attitudes are defining how he or she ought to be treated by the boss.
The owner or manager will react in kind to every employee when the person seeks perks — large or small.
Perhaps a capable worker isn't punctual, wreaking havoc on appointments as well as team productivity. Remind him or her that lateness — not to mention repeated warnings about it — blocks the path to perks.
Consider the talented employee who has a short fuse. Worse yet, that individual embarrasses nearby co-workers and customers with blue language after a loss of temper. Rather than writing the employee up, caution him or her that these outbursts will curtail the use of shop gear as well as affect inclusion in the more-flexible summer schedule under discussion.
Or, maybe there's a talented but dangerously sloppy technician. (His or her work area is a hazard to anyone walking near it.)
Once again, caution the employee that instead of a written notice, you'll cancel all the shop perks he or she has enjoyed up to this time. This finally may get the person's attention.
There may not be a cure-all approach to curbing the worst in some workers, but ultimately, tailoring responses to each individual may yield better results than attempts at "group fairness."