One of the most common problems that employees have with their jobs is with being undermined by those in managerial roles. Companies tout team work, but consistently go against that with on-written, unknown, or outdated policies. In our case today we are going to take a situation where several employees of a non-profit organization have noticed a client that is disorderly, verbally and physically abusive, belligerent, and insubordinate to those in authority. When they take the complaints to those over them, they have continually been undermined by having punishments cancelled and displays of favoritism that has contributed to the continuation of the behaviors.
What makes this a problem is that the authorities who overruled the employees are offsite, and when they are onsite, the client is very friendly, chatty, and one of the first to complain of problems at the program. The favoritism that has been blatant at times have caused problems in disciplining other clients for rule infractions that this client purposely breaks repeatedly. So, what is to be done in a case, where the employees’ onsite, including the management staff have lost their power to effectively counsel and discipline this client?
This is a case where the rules that are in place have been undermined by the leadership has hired the employees to enforce. The consequences of undermining the staff have been that the client has used the favoritism to continue to break rules. The leadership has made it almost impossible for the team to do their jobs effectively. Further, they have also fractured their own relationship with their employees, since they now see that, even collectively they are not listened to.
To dispense of this problem is going to take some written policies, enforcement, and rebuilding of trust on both sides.
1. Written Policies: What is the chain of command for discipline for clients? At what point must the discipline go to the leadership as opposed to the onsite employees? Should there be a consensus from both before any major action is taken? How are complaints against employees to be dealt with, so that all parties feel heard?
2. Enforcement: Written policies are good, but only as good as their enforcement. If the rules are not enforced for all then they will clearly break down at some point.
3. Rebuilding Trust: The toughest of all is rebuilding trust. The employees feel undermined and the leadership feels challenged. How do you rebuild it? Start with communication. By making sure everyone is on the same page, it can help to avoid many problems.
One company that is the model for empowering their employees is Harrods in London. The employee is the final say on what happens with a client. They are trusted enough to do what they were hired to do in line with the management. The management rarely overrules what an employee has decided is the best course of action. By doing this, it stops clients from moving from person to person trying to find someone to do what they think they want done. The staff is in full agreement in front of that client.
When employees are undermined in front of clients by their coworkers or management, they have lost their power. Further, they may lose their ability to do their job effectively, and finally, they may leave the company if they believe they are not respected.
Companies pay consultants millions of dollars to make the above recommendations. Imagine how much could be saved if companies listened to the employees they hired. Undermining employees show a company’s weakness, not its strengths.