Wed, April 7th, 2010 - 6:12 am - By Gordon Basichis
Vadim Lieberman has written a most interesting article, entitled Workers Behaving Badly, published on The Conference Board Review, the writer discusses the zero tolerance policy that many employers have implemented since the economic meltdown. Lieberman discusses some interesting points about how a certain laxity with petty office theft may vent more serious transgressions in the workplace.
In all, Lieberman discusses how to strong an ethics policy may work against the employer. One notable example is his citing an employer’s best salesperson who pads his expense account. With a zero tolerance policy, in theory you are supposed to get rid of that person. But if you do, imagine your losses in sales. Interesting dilemma, assuring if nothing else that even the more strident policies may contain shades of gray. Lieberman writes that you can’t codify everything. Another good point. Having read enough employer conduct manuals, many of which are ignored by most employees, things like dress codes and behavior codes are often overlooked in quest of a greater harmony.
Lieberman, from his writing, appears to be a product of an older school. What it mean by that is where the human element is considered and every decision isn’t mandated by rigid policy. In the older school, club owners allow their favorite bartenders to steal as long as they don’t steal too much. This is an age old practice . A good bartender is a good earner, and a savvy proprietor realizes that letting him go will reduce the allure of his watering hole. Which translates into a loss of business.
Such thinking may sometimes translate into more conventional businesses. As it is written in Lieberman’s article, you don’t treat all employees equally so don’t pretend you do by establishing a more rigid policy, thinking this will engender collective adherence. It won’t.
Even when conducting background checks, there are thing that warrant more attention that others. Criminal background reports take priority, but even with them there is often no tenable standard policy. While it is smart to filter out the job applicants who pose a threat of violence in the workplace there are others who have been convicted of crimes along ago, but have since gone the straight and narrow. The crimes from you two job applicants may both have been felonies, but one is second degree burglary, and the other is armed robbery. True they are both felonies, but they are not the same. One carries a threat of endangerment in the workplace, but the other may be less of a concern.
Compare burglary to someone who has a misdemeanor assault charge. That assault charge could have started out as serious felony. But it may be a case of domestic violence. As such it is often reduced to a misdemeanor or even t a citation. Which means a ticket. These are but a few of the variables.
Background checks are helpful in filtering out the undesirable job candidates. But background checks alone will not necessarily distinguish you better employment candidates from your potential problems. We are in a bad economy, and people respond different to their domestic and financial situations. The pressures at home will get to some workers more intensely than with others. Good people under pressure will act out. Others will shrug it off.
I agree with Lieberman’s thesis. You can’t be too rigid. It is not a perfect world and by no means is there a perfect set of standards. As an employer, be flexible, and you will be better off in the long run.