The unexpected happens. We all know that. And something unexpected that threatens your business can happen at any time. Unfortunately, some of these threats are internally generated. They can come from the most unlikely source—your own employees.
Over my years of consulting, I have assisted clients with a number of situations. For example:
- A key employee had fallen off a ladder and was in a coma. His wife called the business to “make sure he will continue to be paid his full salary until he recovers.”
- A supervisor announced that he and one of his subordinates were dating and intended to get married.
- A poor performing employee who really should have been terminated, but there were no reviews or documentation with regard to the employee’s poor performance.
- A sales manager who found an open external email account on the top-producing sales person’s computer. The emails in the account indicated that the employee had been selling products on the side to a customer that was on credit hold with the company.
- A senior-level employee who disappeared for long periods of time each day. When confronted, he suggested that he was “checking on customers.” However, he refused to provide an itinerary of which customers he was seeing.
- A customer called a business owner to say that he had seen the company’s top sales person drunk at a conference. He was embarrassed and upset by the way the sales person had interacted with the customer’s wife. The customer threatened to stop doing business with the company unless the owner addressed the situation.
- A service technician had turned off the GPS tracker on his service vehicle. He told others that he would get an attorney if the company tried to fire him. His reasoning? “The company doesn’t have a policy that says I have to let them see where I am.”
These are just a sampling of real incidents with which I have assisted clients over the years. Addressing these issues can be simple if the proper kind of documentation and processes are in place. Alternatively, without an up-to-date personnel policy manual and signed agreements that address these types of potential situations, working through such scenarios can be very difficult and potentially very costly.
Such costs may include the need to hire an attorney to examine the legal rights of the employee and the company. You may also potentially have to pay wages and benefits to an employee who takes advantage of the ambiguity of your personnel policies. There can be other hard costs, also, depending on the specific situation.
Soft costs brought on by such issues include the loss of credibility for you as a business owner. It may also mean the loss of opportunity resulting from your inability to focus on other issues while addressing the crisis.
What can be done to prevent many of these situations?
The key is for you to have a current personnel policy manual that addresses every possible employee-related situation you can think of. The manual should address everything from vacation and sick day policies to benefits that are offered. It should include sections that cover alcohol and substance abuse. It should address medical and family leave situations as well as unethical conduct by an employee.
The best way to obtain a comprehensive employee policy manual is to work with a professional services company such as Lighthouse Growth Resources. Good firms who do this type of work will start with a generic manual covering typical employee issues and policies. They will meet with you to determine what needs to be added or modified in the manual to address the specific needs of your business. They will also work with you to make sure the manual is updated frequently and will assist with the process of making sure all existing employees acknowledge receipt of the manual.
In addition, for certain positions, especially in the sales and product development areas, you may also need additional agreements that address such issues as non-compete, non-disclosure and confidentiality. Both management consultants and attorneys can help you address these unique situations.
It is easy to put off addressing these issues. However, investing a relatively small amount of time and money in implementing an up-to-date personnel policy manual, as well as the process required to keep it current, can save you a lot of time and money over the long term. Because I have assisted businesses with the scenarios mentioned above—as well as too many others to mention—I know that unexpected things happen in business. You would do well to protect your business by taking the necessary steps to prevent the inevitable crisis that occurs when something unforeseen happens.