When sympathy goes wrong
Monday, May 14, 2018
Have you ever hired a person, not because you thought they would be an asset to your company, but simply because you felt sorry for them?
You think, “No one else would ever hire this person,” or “They have a rough life and deserve a break.” You feel sorry for their life circumstances: They need the money and the job; they’re living in a car because they don’t have the money for rent; they’re stuck in an abusive relationship because they have to get some money together in order to leave.
Having sympathized with their circumstances, you bend over backwards to keep this person employed to give them an opportunity for a fresh start.
And so, because of that misplaced sympathy, you overlook their chronic tardiness because their car won’t start, and they have no money to get it fixed. You forgive their “no-shows” because of whatever terrible crisis happened that day in their life.
You excuse them walking off the job for hours without a reason because something unforeseen must have happened. You forgive them for being rude to customers because they have a lousy life. And you even tolerate their purposefully ignoring your directions because they obviously don’t know better.
In short, you’ve forgiven a lot of transgressions because of misplaced sympathy.
How about some sympathy for the co-workers who have to carry extra burdens because of her absence? How about sympathy for the customers who have had to endure her surly attitude or listen to a litany of complaints about how life "sucks."
The point is it’s not your responsibility to fix other people’s lives. Your responsibility is to operate a sound, well-functioning business and maintain teamwork and morale. Keeping this kind of toxic person on your staff actively thwarts your primary responsibilities to your company and your staff.
There’s nothing wrong with giving someone an opportunity. But the perpetually negative person who exploits victimhood to insist on making the same mistakes to prevent real change doesn’t want an opportunity. That person wants enabling. This creates a toxic influence on the rest of the company.
Eventually — hopefully — you start to analyze and realize, “If he needs this job so bad, then why didn’t he show up for work?”
One such professional victim went on her scheduled lunch break and simply didn’t return to finish the last four hours of her shift. No message. Nothing. The next day she showed up for work as if nothing untoward had happened the day before, as if it’s normal behavior for an employee to go to lunch and not finish the rest of her scheduled shift.
When questioned, she offered up various illogical and non-credible excuses: “I couldn’t find my cell phone.” “I fell asleep”. “I locked my keys in the car.” “I had to pick someone up in another town.” All of those excuses in the same conversation, no less!
Another employee, kept on by a sympathetic boss, demonstrated time and again that he didn’t care about his job by concertedly avoiding giving any customer service. The boss’s reason for keeping him employed? “No one else would hire this guy.”
Rightfully so! And the thanks this boss got for keeping this slacker employed? The fellow walked off the job one day and simply didn’t return — ever! It was learned some time later that the man had decided he was tired of working and quit — without letting his sympathetic boss even know about it.
The upshot is that there’s no thanks and no opportunity for real growth in giving this kind of person a job in your company. Save your sympathy, and give a job to those who want a hand up in life, not a hand-out.
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