Three More to Go

Doug Bellamy / April 2016

What follows is the 21st letter in a series of 24 letters supposedly written by an owner (Jack Owployer) in response to a general superintendent’s (Joe Gensup) request for something more than the typical job description. Though the company had provided a generic job description, what the superintendent needed and received was much more personal and heartfelt when compared to the sterile notion of do’s and don’ts so commonly emphasized throughout our industry.

Dear Joe:

I’m going to continue in a similar vein as my last letter. Similar but different. I want to make it crystal clear that when it comes to generating cooperation and collaboration company-wide, it is essential that you deal with employees—and especially management—correctly. You are not doing anyone a favor by neglecting to address compliance failures in a timely manner. Let me give you an example.
The other day I overheard a disturbing comment. I was beyond disappointed, especially since it was one of our upper management who made the comment. It was the personification of the spirit of inevitability, an attitude I’ve repeatedly warned you about.
    
Just to clarify this once and forever, the spirit of inevitability is a fatalistic, negative attitude that implies helplessness when it comes to necessary change. It is the notion that things and/or people are stuck the way they are and cannot be changed. And, yes, if ever I heard that spirit put into words, our manager’s comment was rife with the spirit of inevitability.
    
“He’ll never change” were the three words used to describe the repeated failure on the part of one of his foreman. You could feel the fact that the manager was giving up on his foreman. Our manager had resolved to just living with the situation. He was accepting the ongoing unwillingness on the part of his subordinate to comply, allowing him to continue on the wrong path. Latent in this particular comment was the willingness to accept less than what was best for his foreman, the department and, moreover, the company.
    
I couldn’t help myself. I told the manager straight out: “If he won’t change, change him! If he has convinced you he has no intention of cooperating, let him go or demote him. The day that you give up on a subordinate, allowing anyone, especially management, to disregard what we have agreed upon as a part of our standard operating procedure, is the day you give up on the company.”
    
That may sound strong, but sometimes strength is exactly what’s needed. Now, I’m all about cultivating good employee/company relations. I value our company’s “family values” where we all care deeply about one another and do our best to create a climate in which respect, consideration and long term mutually beneficial relationships develop and occur. I’m good with that.
    
In a family, though, you have to play the hand you’re dealt. Sometimes there is irresponsibility and ongoing less-than-desirable behaviors but, hey, they are family. We are naturally expected to be more tolerant. However, even among family members, there are limits. How much more in a business? Never forget that this is business, and this is a business. We are not stuck with anyone, and no one is indispensable.
    
But you do want to be certain you’ve managed the situation properly before you take drastic action. Ask yourself as management: Have I done my part to correct the employee? Does he understand that the behavior is wrong and unacceptable? Have we provided an opportunity for growth and change? Have I been crystal clear when it comes to communicating expectations? If the answers are yes, it is necessary to do what’s necessary.
    
Our SOP does not contain a provision for letting employees fail to comply indefinitely. That would be a major failure on the part of management. We cannot let compliance issues go unaddressed. That’s why we have outlined a clear path for dealing with such issues. It’s a good time to ask why it is that that path is the road less traveled. What tends to happen is unacceptable behaviors are tolerated and not written up, and consequently subordinates and our business continue to perform unacceptably. And that, my friend, is only inevitable if we don’t deal with it.

—Jack

Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. He is available for consultation, business management seminars and training. Visit him on LinkedIn or contact him at doug@altadrywall.com.