Firing a good worker for policy violations


November 11, 1991|By Gerald Graham | Gerald Graham,Knight-Ridder

Robin heads a customer-service department of 12 people.

"Robin enforces attendance rules and expects high-quality work," says one of her workers. "But she is easy to work for because everyone knows what is expected."

As Robin describes her group, "I expect a lot from them, and they do a great job. I also expect them to work as a team."

Earlier this year, Robin hired Tom to replace a member who had been promoted. Tom was experienced, easygoing, likable and confident. More important, Tom had excellent references.

After only a month on the job, Tom had already proven that he was an excellent performer. He was great with customers, and he had offered several good ideas for improving the department.

However, Tom had some trouble adapting to the department's policies. He came to work a few minutes late about once a week and occasionally extended his lunch break by five or 10 minutes. Further, Tom was not always timely with his reports, and some contained errors.

Robin talked with Tom about these policy violations, and he responded, "Well, I'll do the best I can, but I think some of your policies are a little too rigid. These things shouldn't matter too much as long as I do my job."

Other members of the department, as you might expect, were aware of Tom's violations. Although they liked him, there was grumbling about what he was getting away with.

At the end of Tom's second month, his performance was great, but he was still not following all the departmental policies. Further, other department members were now complaining openly, and there were signs of slippage in their overall performance.

Robin had a second talk with Tom and showed him a record of his policy violations. While Tom was pleasant, there was little evidence that he was going to change. Robin also talked about performance in a departmental meeting, and members were uncharacteristically quiet.

After the third month, when things had not changed, Robin terminated Tom. Within a week, departmental performance and morale were back to their previously high levels.

Violating policy

Indicate whether you agree or disagree with each of the following:

High-performing individuals who violate departmental policies often:

1. Increase the group's overall performance.

2. Cause meaningful policy changes.

3. Decrease the group's morale.

4. Increase intergroup communication.

5. Increase cooperation with other departments.

6. Serve as a meaningful role model.

7. Encourage others to violate policies.

8. Stimulate intergroup conflict.

9. Are very popular within the group.

10. Are accommodated by higher management.

Interpretation. Although not all experts agree, these statements tend to be correct: 3, 7, 8, 10. Statements 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 9 are incorrect.

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