THE Dangers of Treating Employees as Family

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By Brian Ramsey – Amalgamated Security

It is a commonly held belief that employees who are well-treated are more productive and will tend to view the company almost as if it were their own, and so, seek the company’s best interests.
This belief is bolstered by many academic studies that have identified a correlation between the benefits provided to employees and their overall work performance. Now, it is certainly not our intention to suggest that employers should treat employees badly or that neglecting the welfare of employees will not affect their productivity.
There are, however, times when the good intentions of owners can backfire and actually hurt the company, and this is particularly the case with small enterprises.
The writer had conducted an investigation into a company, and in the course of that investigation, the danger of treating employees as family was revealed in a startling light.
This was a small company that had been in existence for approximately 20 years. The company was started by the owner who worked in the business. As time progressed, the owner identified an employee who he believed had the potential to develop and so he nurtured him.
The owner knew the young man’s family and so he took a special interest in his development, going beyond simply ensuring that he received training. He began to treat the young man like family.
Over the many years that the young man worked in the company, he was included in functions that the owner had at his home. Also, when the owner had personal activities involving his friends, he would invite the young man to join him.
Unfortunately, after several years, the owner began to suspect that he was losing revenue in a particular area and began an investigation, which later confirmed his suspicion.
The investigation began to point in the direction of the favoured young man. Eventually, the young man confessed that, in collaboration with someone else, he had been diverting income that would usually come to the owner. He had been doing so for about two years.
There is clearly a danger in business owners literally treating employees as family and the danger can arise because an employee sees the physical rewards that the owner has reaped from his investment and hard work in the company.
The employee sees the new cars, the nice home, possibly the vacation home and hears about the vacations that the owner took abroad. Eventually, some employees form the view that the owner has reaped these rewards because of their (the employees’) hard work. Indeed, to some extent, that would be true because a business needs all of its employees to work hard and deliver excellent customer service if that business is to grow.
Often, however, the employee does not take into consideration the financial risks that the owner took in starting the business; he does not consider the long hours that the owner would have undertaken to grow the business.
The employee only sees the rewards that the owner is now getting and begins to form the view that he should get some of those rewards. Now, a good owner would undoubtedly reward long-serving and hard-working employees, possibly with salary increases, more vacation time and sometimes even overlooking small foibles and mistakes.
However, notwithstanding these types of rewards, some employees begin to believe that they deserve more, especially in the situations where they are exposed to aspects of the owner’s personal life. This may result in temptation to steal or to siphon income into their pockets.
The main point is that all owners should treat their employees well, and with long-serving employees who have a good understanding of the company, the owner can discuss the business with them and draw suggestions from them.
Owners, however, should not draw employees into their personal life and should not expose them to the activities of their family and friends. Owners should definitely avoid exhibiting a flashy lifestyle in the view of their employees.
In closing, we wish to recount the experience of the writer as a young man with only a few years of experience in the business world. The writer often had to deal with an older man who owned several businesses and was a multi-millionaire.
The businessman and the writer would often engage in negotiations and overtime a rapport developed where the businessman would give advice and provide insights into his personal thinking and business philosophy. During one discussion, the businessman revealed that he owned several Rolex watches, but for his day-to-day work activities he wore a Timex and that he always drove a used car, a well-maintained car, but a used one nevertheless.
Although he enjoyed his wealth, taking vacations whenever he wanted to all parts of the world, staying in luxury hotels and using it in ways that benefited his family, the businessman explained that he operated as a common man among his employees so as not to build resentment and envy, nor make himself a target for those who only saw the trappings of wealth and would conspire to obtain some of that wealth from him.


(Article taken from the Guyana Inc. Magazine Issue 27)

Article Categories:
Columns · Issue 27 · Publication · Security

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