PTSD OF EMPLOYEES PAST
Companies are making slower decisions when it comes to bringing on new talent
My friend has owned a company for decades. He’s had employees that have worked there for more than 25 years. He treats them like family. After all, spending your life with dedicated individuals for more than a quarter century would lead to trust.
He’s celebrated the births of their children and the deaths of their loved ones. He’s been there when addiction struck. He’s been there when divorce derailed lives. And he’s been there when they’ve moved on to the next chapters of their professional lives.
He’s trusted. He’s loved. And in return, this team has been there for him.
But recently, some of that same team betrayed him.
It was an employee who showed up to work every day for 10 years. She showed up every day, on time, and ready to run his business.
Or so he thought.
He loved her like a daughter. He celebrated her wedding, commiserated her with during her divorce, and loaned her money when times got tough.
How did she return that kindness? She stole from his business.
That’s right, over the course of two years, this trusted employee began to write fraudulent checks to support her ever growing addiction. Tens of thousands of dollars went to support an addiction he never knew she had.
One day she was the all-star employee, highest earner, and among the most-trusted people at the firm. The next day, she’s being fired and has no explanation for her behavior. There was no apology for the damage done. My friend who owns the business has not seen her since.
Now here we are four years later, and he still can’t trust people.
He works every day. He’s there open-to-close, every night. He questions employees all the time. Of course, they don't like it, and as a result talent leaves. Those who remain feel threatened by his presence.
What's wild is, it only took one dishonest employee to derail the trust train.
Stories like this plague the headlines. We hear about computer servers being stolen, security breaches happening at a rapid speed, self-proclaimed whistleblowers taking down empires, and family legacies being lost.
The law tells us we're “innocent until proven guilty.” But with the shift in employee behavior, should companies assume the worst and hope for the best?
I recently sat across from a legend in the media industry who built another company a decade ago. He told me how incredible the new company is. The new company is growing at record speed, the operational team is solid and strong, but they couldn’t figure out the sales and marketing team. He went on to defend his lousy Glassdoor reviews, then told me about the executives that promised grandeur and delivered nothing at the cost of a huge annual salary and a damaged culture.
He looked defeated. He seemed scared. How could he have built an empire 30 years ago that is still thriving, and now he has this other company that has caused such pain?
When it comes to ownership of a business, feelings run deeper than the bottom line. Owners have made sacrifices along the way. They’ve failed and rebuilt. For them, having a business is like having a child - it's personal.
I had an old boss tell me, “When the fish stinks, it stinks at the head.” That may be true. But I would combat that statement with questions about personal responsibility.
Aren't employees being trusted because they're responsible adults? Why should owners be punished for trusting, believing, and empowering people? What about personal accountability?
Patty McCord, the former Chief Talent Officer of Netflix, says in her book Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, “Hire adults and treat them like adults.” That's great in theory and provides a hopeful outlook on humanity. But obviously from what we’re seeing, it’s just not that simple.
So, how are we supposed to overcome this epidemic challenging the employment rate and the growth of companies?
1. BACKGROUND CHECKS – According to www.goodhire.com, more than 70 percent of companies conduct a background check to ensure the person applying is who they say they are and they haven’t had any past criminal charges. As for the other firms who don’t conduct background checks? They claim these checks are too pricey and/or don’t provide results fast enough. What costs more, a background check or an employee who ends up stealing? Besides any money taken, what about the legal bills, the potential reputation damage, and the broken morale it can induce?
2. TALKING TO OTHERS IN THE INDUSTRY – If you have a seasoned veteran walking through your door who looks like the right fit, more than likely they’ve worked with an alliance the company has in the field. Picking up the phone and asking a person who has worked with them in the past can be very helpful. If the feedback is negative, structure a second interview with questions around the feedback to see if the stories align. If the candidate is truthful, don’t close the door. People are people and sometimes they make mistakes and bad choices. If they weren’t criminal offenses, try to understand. It may just be a clash of personalities.
3. GOOGLE THE CANDIDATE - Employers forget about the power search engines can provide. Don’t focus on the first page, keep going until the search ends. More than likely, if the candidate had a challenge, they’ve found a way to bury it on search engines.
4. LOOK AT SOCIAL MEDIA – If the pages are public, look through their posts. I promise you, if the person isn't truthful, something on their social media pages will show this. Once again, don’t stay stuck on the first page, keep going.
5. SUBSCRIBE TO A PREDICTIVE BEHAVIORAL PROGRAM – Throughout my career, I’ve used a program called Predictive Index. A simple 90-second test will tell you so much about a candidate. It can show their ability to see a project to completion, their emotional intelligence, and can prevent you from hiring the wrong person for the job.
Harboring resentment and continuing to distrust will continue to negatively affect team performance and the overall profit of the company. Leaders need to take action when victimized by employees who have gone terribly astray. The PTSD of employees past could be killing the psyche of current talent, and more unfortunately, prevent the next all-star hire.
Learn from the employee’s past and move on.
If you can’t, the torturous merry-go-round will never stop spinning.
But wait, there’s another side to this topic too. Were you an employee who just can't get over the trauma of companies past? Did a toxic workplace culture almost kill your creative spirit? Read the other side - The Trauma of Workplaces Past.