A Fracas in the Franchise - Keep Your Customers by Keeping Your Workers

As a previous owner of a Franchise I know the importance of maintaining employee commitment, loyalty and enthusiasm in maximising customer satisfaction, generating positive customer perception and protecting your investment.

Repeat business is the life-blood of any business worth its salt. Coupled with a structured approach to increasing market share, looking at the 'window of opportunity' and delivering services with excellence and cultivating positive customer perceptions would appear to be a recipe for success.

Have you ever stood at the front counter of a business and overheard employee dialogue or noticed that some employees appear to convey displeasure with their jobs?

As a person, and practitioner, interested in people it has often been my observation that many Franchisees need to wake up and realise that people management is not that complicated or as difficult as they may have thought. There are a few simple things that can be done to build an environment of high trust amongst employees.

However, it appears that not all franchise owners practise what they preach. Many espouse that 'we treat our employees as valuable assets of the business'. This has always been a great source of amusement to me (because experience has often demonstrated otherwise).

Some people engage subtlety in intimidating staff, constantly making nit picking comments, refusing to lead by example and reducing staff numbers to the point where the bear minimum of staff are left to serve in the business. This begins to seriously effect employee moral, customers are disenfranchised and owners wonder why profits are down.

Take this true, real life example which I was actively involved in some months ago (names and details changed to ensure privacy).

Aunty Marges was a Brisbane Franchise that appeared on the scene several years ago. Aunty Marges specialised in quality cookies, cake and coffee. A husband and wife bought two of these Franchises.

The new owner's employed 4 staff in one particular location. Staff was rostered on at different times throughout the day with one of the owners helping for part of the day. The roster started at 7.30am and normally finished at 6.00pm

It was a busy business located in a popular shopping centre, was a pressurised environment. The owners had over-extended their borrowing capacity.

Janelle, a teenager had been employed along with the other 3 employees to work in the business.

Janelle was known to be a hard worker who went out of her way to up-sell, interacted well with customers and took her job seriously. Despite being in her last year of college she took her responsibilities seriously.

One morning the owners called a staff meeting where they admitted that they were over-committed and requested that employees put in an extra effort. When staff left they were not replaced.

The friendliness soon began to disappear and the owners began to leave critical notes scolding employees and placing more demands on them. As a result staff began resigning.

One night as our family was over at Janelle's place the telephone rang. It was for Janelle. The business owner (the wife) rang up and was obviously berating the teenager on the telephone.

Janelle went to her room sobbing and came back some time later to tell her parents and our family what had occurred.

Over the next four months this became a consistent occurrence. Finally Janelle had enough and I was asked to speak with the owners, which I did.

Why is it that some people seem to have a moribund fascination in causing other people pain and afflicting them with a life a drudgery and frustration. Our teenagers need positive role models instead of having roadblocks placed in their paths.

Why is it that we consistently hear about businesses that seem to pay lip service to 'our employees are our most valuable assets' behave abominably and wonder why the books are down?

What is Workplace Harassment?

Under the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 employers have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of all workers by managing risks at the workplace.

1. A person is subjected to "workplace harassment" if the person is subjected to repeated behaviour, by a person, including the person's employer or a co-worker or group of co-workers of the person that-

(a) is unwelcome and unsolicited; and.

(b) the person considers to be offensive, intimidating, humiliating or threatening; and

(c) a reasonable person would consider to be offensive, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.

A recent draft statement released by the Queensland Government includes some examples of behaviour, where repeated or occurring as part of a pattern of behaviour, may be considered workplace harassment includes the following.

Abusing the person/s loudly, usually when others are present;

Repeated threats of dismissal or other severe punishment for no reason;

Constant ridicule and being put down;

Leaving offensive messages on email or the telephone;

Sabotaging the person's work for example by deliberately withholding or supplying incorrect information; hiding documents or equipment; not passing on messages; and in other ways, getting the worker into trouble;

Maliciously excluding and isolating the person/s from workplace activities; Persistent and unjustified criticisms, usually of the nit-picking variety;

Humiliating the person/s through sarcasm, criticism and insults, often in front of customers, management or other workers;

Spreading gossip or false, malicious rumours about the person/s with an intent to cause them harm;

Singling out and treating person/s differently from others, without good reason

Effects of Workplace Harassment on the Employees and the Business

Workplace harassment has detrimental effects on workers and the workplace.

Workers who are harassed can become:

distressed, anxious, withdrawn and depressed

physically ill, sleep deprived

aggressive, vengeful

less self-confident and develop low self-esteem.

Workplace harassment may result in:

loss of trained and talented workers;

loss of profits;

reduced productivity and morale;

an unsafe working environment; and

legal costs for a workplace.

Employer Costs ? (off your bottom-line)

Employers who engage in these behaviours may face stiff penalties and the full weight of the law.

? Costs to the employer include high staff turnover, which inturn places added pressure on owners to spend longer hours in the business.

? Low morale which decreases productivity

? Workplace investigations by the OH&S people

? Higher workers compensation premiums where the claim has been proven

? Legal penalties and damages awards in some circumstances

? Mediation Fees

? Becoming known as a 'bad' employer

? Indirect costs (often significant) added to the bottom line.

? Incurring the displeasure of the master franchise holder.

It has been my experience that on average an employer will be out of pocket through direct and indirect means by $25,000 for one incidence.

Prevention

You can effectively manage workplace harassment by adopting some of the following procedures

Recognise your strengths and weaknesses and educate yourself and your employees.

Make a commitment to treat staff with respect. You have a vested interest in doing this.

Introduce a workplace specific harassment policy for all levels of management and staff.

Arrange for an in-house seminar on workplace harassment and have employees sign to say they will comply with the policy.

Deal with all complaints immediately, confidentially and thoroughly.

The place where Janelle previously was employed continues to be an unhappy place, the owners are stressed and the master franchise holder is unhappy with the owners.

Do not ignore workplace harassment and think you will get away with it. You can find other helpful articles at www.biz-momentum.com

Philip Lye is the founder of Biz Momentum providing strategic human resource management to help you grow your business. He is an expert in workplace team building and prevention of workplace conflict. Drop by today and find helpful information at http://www.biz-momentum.com. Send us your question for an answer from us.

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