Employees Behaving Badly: Five Decision Points for Business Owners

The recent events in the NFL regarding Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson have reminded me about the times I’ve had employees behave badly outside of work. What should be our response as Christian Business owners? Here are five decision-points to consider.

Differentiate between Unwanted and Illegal

There’s lots of behavior that is legal that is still unwanted. When an employee behaves badly, but within legal boundaries, how you handle that situation will change. Bad behavior, even if legal behavior, can indicate a character flaw that you may or may not want to deal with on your staff. Sometimes, we’re called by God to help an employee improve and grow. Other times, it’s best to just end the professional relationship and backfill that employee’s position with someone new. Only you, the business owner, can make that call at any given time. If the behavior is illegal, do not try to stand in the way of the justice system working their processes, unless you feel strongly that you should intervene. But in either vein – whether unwanted or illegal – be aware that there are legal limits on how much you can import your employee’s behavior into your promotion, salary raises and other human resource decisions. Be sure to check with a competent labor attorney before you make any decisions.

Investigate if the Employee’s Behavior is Hurting Your Business

Every Christian Business owner recognizes that his/her business is an entrustment from God to be stewarded for Kingdom purposes. Part of stewardship is protection, so don’t shy away from protecting your business when necessary. If the employee’s behavior is bleeding into your business culture and perhaps is infecting other employees, you need to act swiftly to ensure that their behavior is nixed swiftly. Examples include bad attitudes, defiance or apathy. Move swiftly to remove the infection from your business.

Remind Yourself when You have Committed the Same Sin

Take time before the Lord to investigate your own life to see if the same sin is within you as a business owner and as a person. For example, let’s say your employee was convicted of shoplifting. Use this as an opportunity to ask the Lord if you’re currently stealing from anyone and then be sure to make restitution if you are. Did you employee hire a hooker and get caught? Then ask the Lord to remind you of any sin in your life regarding lust, impurity or adultery. Remember, lust is equivalent to adultery, so don’t mince words with the Lord.

The Higher the Profile, the Larger the Damage

Most people who commit child abuse are not in danger of losing their jobs. But when you play in the NFL, the role-model aspect of your job is nearly as important as how well you perform on the field. The higher someone is within an organization, the more influence and visibility they have inside and outside that organization, so their standards grow increasingly more stringent for good behavior because their bad behavior is imputed by many onto the reputation of your business. In your key positions, it’s best to include verbiage in their job description and employment contract about bad behavior reflecting poorly on the company and how they’re held to a higher standard as a result.

The temptation will be to look the other way because of the good they bring to your organization. Don’t give into this temptation. No one is irreplaceable – including you. Hold those with high visibility and influence to a stricter standard. It’s best for you and your business if you do so.

Don’t Gossip

As a business owner, you may find yourself in possession of key information that most don’t know about. Keep it to yourself and don’t spread it around. You may have to fight the urge to do so when the employee has hurt you and yet it appears as if your actions regarding the employee’s behavior are seen by other employees as out-of-balance or somehow unfair. There are times when in your leadership role you need to live with being misunderstood. It’s just part of the gig. Your urge to “set the record straight” might be especially strong if you see them leave your business and land a great job with a competitor or start their own business. You need to keep it to yourself anyway and entrust the future of your business and your reputation to the Lord.

Bill English


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