The Inch That Turns Into The Employee Mile

June 22, 2017

At one time or another, every business has had employees who love to turn "an inch given into a mile taken." These are employees who push the limits on everything. It might be coming in late, leaving early, taking excessive breaks or overextended lunches, spending an inordinate amount of time on personal calls or social media, complaining about work that's "not my job function," or similar actions that defy management to do something about it.

The more that employees get away with this type of behavior, the more they attempt to challenge the system and the status quo. When they realize that management will not confront them when coming in late, the tardiness becomes more frequent and the lateness becomes greater, the lunches become longer, and the work hours tend to be less. 

When managers turn a blind eye to this type of employee and resort to a conflict aversion management style rather than a forceful, leadership management style, the following become serious byproducts:

Employee Productivity And Attitude

Employees who push the limits on acceptable work behavior generally have reduced productivity and negative attitudes about their jobs. They are more interested in creating their own rules than living within the rules of the company. Regardless how other employees conform, "rebel" employees continue to set their own rules. Whenever they realize that their manager will not confront their unorthodox behavior, they push the boundaries even more. Before long, it's the employees setting their own work standards rather than the owner or manager setting the standards. Productivity under these circumstances cannot help but suffer.

Coworkers' Productivity And Attitude

When employees are productive and follow the rules, they want coworkers to do the same. There is nothing more disheartening to motivated, energetic employees than to see colleagues not following the same rules but also suffering no consequences because of their non-conforming behavior. Unfortunately, this situation leads to reduced productivity and increased negative attitude creating a situation that demoralizes and demotivates everyone working with "rebel" employees who will not abide by the rules.

Managers Rendered Ineffective

Managers can easily and quickly be rendered ineffective when allowing employees to break company rules and policies. If noncomplying employees are allowed the freedom without consequences to establish their own work rules regarding standard behavior without interference, other employees, as well as the employees involved, quickly realize who is in control...employees rather than owners or managers. All employees easily recognize the breakdown of leadership, which leads to contagious behavior.

Operational Efficiency

When employee productivity decreases and managerial leadership is rendered ineffective, overall operational efficiency starts to diminish. While this scenario might not be readily apparent, over time a business in this situation starts to experience the negative effect...employee turnover, customer dissatisfaction, decreased sales, increased expenses, reduced profits, quality control problems, and general errors all due to employees not being required to follow company rules. 

The Answer

Managers must manage and lead. Rules must be consistently enforced for all employees, and there must be consequences for employees who regularly bend and break the rules. Businesses put various rules in place because they think such rules help the company operate efficiently. Employees who want to stretch the "inch into a mile" need to conform or be replaced with new employees who understand company rules must be followed rather than broken. Businesses cannot afford to have noncomplying employees on the payroll.