Deadbeat Companies

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Apr 06

Over at HR Fishbowl, Charlie had a thought-provoking article on what a “deadbeat employee” looks like and the need to get rid of them because they suck the life out of the rest of your employees. Interesting, for sure, but I think some of the points about deadbeat employees are the direct result of something else:

Deadbeat companies.

Companies, and their management, significantly impact how employees engage in their work. Not 100%, mind you, but a significant amount. An amount such that even the best employees can get beaten down to the point where the first question of the day becomes “What is the new truth today and I’ll just go do it?”

Companies, you know, have a much bigger power place — the power to lay you off in a New York Minute comes to mind — than any particular employee. Beating the initiative out of an employee is relatively easy to do. Take one bad manager, mix in new company policies, impact pay and watch how engaged your employees are in their work.

How can you tell if your company is a deadbeat company?

1. Companies that layoff employees and let the intellectual property they have walk out the door with them

Here’s my opinion: every layoff is the fault of management. Management didn’t see something coming, didn’t set up the departments right, didn’t move people into different roles that better suits the person, didn’t integrate the new purchase right, hired too many people, spent too much money, didn’t prepare for the business downturn and on and on and on. And when it comes to cost cutting, often the very first option on the cost cutting list is a layoff.

Whatever amount of knowledge, skill and context those people have will now be enjoyed by your competitors. Nice going.

2. Companies that are more concerned about the time you spend than the results you make

The amount of effort management expends ensuring you are at the office, limiting your time off, focusing on “butts in the chair,” and hounding you about being ten minutes late in the middle of a blizzard is astonishing. You want to focus on the time spent at work? That’s the result you get: time spent at work. And then management calls all these people out as lazy bums who don’t want to work when the focus of management has nothing to do with results, only time.

3. Management that refuses to manage by making the hard choices

You see it all the time: there is conflict in your department about what to do about something. There are strong opinions — and options — on both sides. Rather than engaging in the conversations, listening to all sides, finding the best out of all the options, management fails and chooses the worst of both worlds. Or fails to choose at all.

The result? Employees who no longer will offer up options, who no longer will fiercely defend what they think is right, and no longer work to find even better solutions through the conflict. All that makes no difference; management will just do “whatever.” Watch how fast employee engagement goes away when that happens.

4. Companies that increase the pay of their CEO while freezing or taking away benefits from employees

Yeah, it’s okay for that CEO to get the 27% pay raise — on the backs of the employees who did the work to carry out what the CEO wanted. That’s sure to increase engagement on the job.

5. Companies that say employees are their “greatest asset” and then totally ignore them when making decisions

Amazing how fast those “greatest asset” employees transition to a faceless labor cost commodity that produce widgets of work. Do you think employees don’t notice the hypocrisy? Trust me, they do.

Now, there are deadbeat employees out there. Management’s job is to make sure the true deadbeats are not taking the place down. But if you think half your company consists of deadbeats, it’s time to look at the company and the management. Because maybe the deadbeats are on the other side of the desk.

Do you work for a deadbeat company?

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.