There are times when helping employees hurts your business. I know. Throughout my leadership career, there have been too many times to count when I’ve helped an employee without any consideration as to how it might affect the business. I’ve since learned (I hope) that helping employees should never be to the detriment of the organization. Let me explain.

When Helping Employees Hurts Your Business

Allowing Others to Fail isn’t Help

A couple of years ago I took a new manager under my wing. Although she had anger management issues and was a thorn in Human Resources side, I thought I could change her. In the meantime, her toxic behavior adversely affected the company. Production in her department was inconsistent, and she was the direct cause of losing more than one employee. I let my ego, and desire to help her get in the way of what was best for the business.

A Difficult Lesson

Several years ago I had new employee miss three days in her first two weeks on the job. It seems her mother had been her child care provider, but they had a falling out, and my new employee didn’t have the funds to pay for child care. My boss told me to fire her. I was appalled. How could we, as decent human beings, abandon this new employee? I sat down with my boss and here’s what he told me. He said “Randy, I know your hearts in the right place, but I can’t let you jeopardize my company. I asked, “What do you mean?”

Helping Employees isn’t as Simple as it Seems 

He explained, “First the exception becomes the rule. If we allow the person to miss work because of their home life, others will want the same, which would ultimately lead to lowered production. Secondly, and I don’t want this to sound cold, but we’re not the government—it’s not our job to be the life preserver for everyone facing hardship.

Might my answer have been different for a tenured proven employee—you bet, but that’s not the case here. Third of all, we need to consider our loyal, hardworking employees. Allowing behavior that is counterproductive could affect bonuses, benefits, and more. Especially when the behavior is perceived as supported by management and then allowed to spread. Finally, when you play favorites too often the favorites play you.”

It was a hard lesson and I one didn’t completely buy into it at the time, but over the years I’ve realized how right he was.

First Do No Harm

Helping employees when it hurts the company isn’t good business. Allowing an employee to be the exception to the rule takes away from all the loyal employees that have stood by you and followed policies. Before helping any employee, ask yourself the following:

  • Am I making an exception that if copied could hurt my business?
  • Will my help be seen as favoritism and negatively affect other employees?
  • What is my motivation to help is it ego, friendship, sympathy, or to help the employee and the organization?
  • How will my helping the employee help the business?

I’m Still Learning

I’m not throwing any stones here. As I said from the beginning I’ve made this mistake many times and as recently as a couple of years ago. I’ve jeopardized my team because I wanted to help someone. I have a big heart. I want to help others, and I like helping, but I must learn that if I hurt my organization and valued teammates while doing so then it’s not really helping is it? Are you helping or hurting your team?

How Can I Help You?

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

Does your business have a management training plan? Many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook, a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out.

Photo by Nastuh Abootalebi on Unsplash