Monday, March 29, 2010
Why you should treat “the Temp” well or the $14, 465.63 postage stamp
To borrow from an old TV show, the story you are about to read is true; the names were changed to protect the innocent (and guilty). As you hire people as your business progresses from small to medium, some times you make hiring mistakes. One of these can be the person who brings all their personnel baggage with them to work. Let me say, from the bottom of my heart, you can’t get rid of these people fast enough! They bother co-workers, whine at supervisors, bully subordinates, and treat temps or contractors with distain which leads us to the story of the “14,465.63 postage stamp."
Many years ago (over 20) I worked (as a contractor) for a company we will call “Ramshead.” Ramshead had let its receivables run amuck for a while and when they were audited, the HQ gave them a marching order of “clean this up!” Ramshead contracted with a major accounting temporary firm to have 4 A/R specialists come out help them: Big D (me), Billy Bob, Steve, and Jill. We were escorted to a back office to tables (no desks), set up with phones and an aged trial balance, and told to collect all the past dues. We were in the same office as Tracy T (nicknamed tsetse fly-by the company’s founder-Mr. Jones)-the “A/P girl” whose goal seemed to be making everyone else’s life miserable by taking/ making many personal calls from the office and by bothering co-workers, whining at her boss, she had no subordinates, but she did treat the temps with obvious contempt.
Over the course of the 6 month project Jill was married and moved out west, and Steve became a cost accountant in Louisville, so for the last couple of months, it was just Billy Bob and I. Billy Bob had a great deal of experience with the auto industry and some good contacts. Billy Bob had taken on a special project to get about 15K of hopelessly messed up invoices paid. This was something that Ramshead personnel had little knowledge, but Billy Bob had succeeded in getting “buy off” to pay from a big 3 automaker. Our last day there, Billy Bob and I went to lunch and we when returned (and were going to pack up and leave early) there was Tracy T (TseTse) with a sour look on her face. “I understand that Anna in the mail room is letting you send in your time cards through the company postage meter,” she said flatly. We answered “yes,” she extended that courtesy to us. Tracy then proceeded to state that she was “revoking that courtesy,” and stomped off to “speak with Anna,” adding that if we were going to run our time cards through the postage meter, to “either leave 22cents, or go buy a stamp.”
Billy Bob and I stood there in stunned silence, but then Billy Bob spoke. “I had one thing left to do before we left here, mail the packet of big 3 invoices (there were about 20), but I am not going to do it now.” Instead Billy Bob flipped on the company’s paper shredder and proceeded with great delight to feed each corrected invoice into it. We then walked out the door; shook hands, and drove off. I never saw Billy Bob again; he had spoken of moving back to Atlanta.
About a month later, I received a call from the agency asking me if I had seen or heard from Billy Bob. I replied no, and related that he had spoken of moving back down south somewhere. I inquired why. Well, Ramshead was under the impression that they were going to get a large payment from an automaker and it never showed up. Snickering in my coffee, I said, “well, you will have to talk to Billy Bob, he was working it."
The high maintenance employee had cost the company fifteen thousand dollars! I later heard from one of the sales people at Ramshead that it was rumored that Mr. Jones the company founder suggested to human resources that they find a reason to “swat the tsetse fly” and that she was finally terminated.
I know the in vogue thing in HR theory is to constantly rotate your bottom 20% employee, but for me if you have a high maintenance employee, get them on the express train out of your business, or your company too might buy a $14,463.65 postage stamp!
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