We've all had employees that suffered from a chronic debilitating condition known as "The Monday Morning Flu." These folks were all ages and in all job descriptions, and seemed to be otherwise healthy most of the time except around 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. Monday morning when that inevitable call would come from them.
"Boss, I'm really sick as a dog, I think it's a stomach virus or something that's been going around lately, I'll try my best to make it in later today, but I've been sitting on the commode all weekend and really doubt if I can, but thanks for understanding!"
Whether we knew or suspected they were hungover from a weekend drinking fest, or had other issues, didn't matter since they'd show up more or less on time every day for the rest of the week and want to put in a few extra hours to make up for missing Monday. The main thing was, regardless of what trade position they held, that they produced once they were physically on the job and helped the job's bottom line. That is why we put up with them since a lesser producer would have been fired long ago. But, to save me, I have never understood this mindset of lying first, disrupting the team second and seemingly not giving a crap about their job up to a relative point. I'm not made that way. I have always tried to give my employer my 100% best efforts since that's part of The Golden Rule I follow and it's also who I am at my core.
So many of life's disappointments don't come from the fact that we don't meet our own high expectations we set for ourselves. It comes from the fact that most of us (at least I'm this way) expect others both below and above us on the corporate ladder in particular, and in life in general, to share our own moral and ethical standards, and we're hurt and disappointed when others don't.
In this economy with jobs as scarce as they are you'd think that would tighten up employee attitudes and get rid of bad work habits, but I don't think it really has. People are people, they can only be themselves, and if who they are includes a laizze-faire attitude that they'll make enough money to pay their bills and bump along in life OK, so why not enjoy themselves on the weekends or during the week or when and whatever, then fine. If fishing, drinking, hunting, etc., is more important to them than making themselves more valuable to their employer, so when the next round of layoffs come they might be the ones chosen to stay with the company instead of being let go, then, yeah, whatever.
Sometimes a good part of problematic employees' problems is they feel they're not respected. This can be for any number of reasons such as upper management truly not respecting anyone downstream and communicating that by words and actions, or if you've had to adjust their pay to reflect this new Great Depression. If you've had to discipline them in private for a minor infraction they might feel like you don't respect them at all even if you've shown and communicated repeatedly that you do.
That said, respect is a two-way street. Before you can respect anyone else you have to respect yourself. While it’s cliché to say that, it's also very true. Once someone comes to respect themselves they actually start caring more about the details of their lives, such as showing up to work on time every day and taking better care of company tools and even caring a little more about their on-the-job family, which always helps boost productivity and makes not just for a less stressful work environment, but a safer one for all.
You can't teach self-respect, that has to come from within, and you can't make someone respect others either. However, you can and should openly encourage more positive behaviors and attitudes, and punish within reason the bad ones.
Bad behavior such as routinely being late should never be rewarded, such as offering them a small bribe if they will simply do what is expected of the rest of the team. You can selectively do "little disciplines" such as sending them home if they do come in later in the day, their contribution to the job would be minimal that day anyway, or not letting them get overtime in that's offered to everyone else. If you do this, let them know exactly why. You could also be strict on their time card hours with no "fill ins/fill ups" for partial quarter hours recorded.
Human beings will always be human beings, and as project manager it is your job to manage those human beings as best you can and that includes always being part boss, part friend, part disciplinarian and part kindergarten teacher, treating each employee as the unique individuals they are. Remember you don't hold your job because you won some popularity contest and were crowned Homecoming Job King of the company, you hold your job because you have a unique skill set, which makes your own bosses and the company money. It's your job to have everyone under you make as much money for you and the company as possible, and if at some point they cease making you money, if their aggravation becomes more than their production is worth, well, then, that’s the harvest that their own bad attitudes and actions have sowed.
Kent Craig is a second-generation mechanical contractor with unlimited Master's licenses in boilers, air conditioning, heating and plumbing. You may contact him via e-mail at: [email protected].