by Kristi Weierbach, Ph.D., SPHR, SHRM-SCP, FPC of Stambaugh Ness
There are many contributors to losing good talent, one that doesn’t receive much attention is the spoiled brat syndrome. Does someone immediately come to mind when you hear the term “spoiled brat,” a co-worker, a customer, or maybe it’s you at times? It seems that some people have this unique talent in their DNA, and the rest learn it from their surroundings. Temper tantrums, unrealistic expectations, the desire for excessive amounts of attention, and a need to control others, are all examples of spoiled brat behaviors (at least in my opinion). It is interesting how some will outgrow these behaviors while others carry them for a lifetime.
Nurturing the Brat
Too often companies become paralyzed by client demands. There’s a ripple effect that often occurs, impacting many areas of an organization. It usually starts with a “favor” or “an exception” to “go the extra mile” with unintended consequences to follow. Managers and employees may extend a deadline, provide a discount, accept poor-quality source documents, deviate from a company process, turn a blind eye to unprofessional behavior, in an attempt to provide exceptional service or appease a problematic personality. When repeated, these actions create the new norm or standard level of service that clients expect of all employees. Quickly the company culture becomes reactionary to the demands of clients, becoming an environment pursuing perfection at all costs.
The same can be true of employees as well. How often does a difficult employee end up being coddled instead of dealt with? To avoid conflict or difficult conversations we cave and cater.
What’s the Connection to Retention?
Spoiled brats have a significant impact on a firm’s culture, and may ultimately affect other employees and their decision to stay with your organization. Now imagine the influence a spoiled brat can have on the experience of your current employees, and his/her day-to-day responsibilities. He/She must handle large volumes of inquiries (electronic, interruptions, etc.), respond to urgent requests, adhere to policies/procedures, produce high-quality products/services and far too often deal with spoiled brats (customers, peers, managers, etc.). Before long employee engagement, performance, and effectiveness starts to decline. Frustration, stress, employee turnover, etc. begin to climb.
Taking a Stand
While I have bumped into a wide variety of spoiled brats, one, in particular, stands out among the rest. I was working with a very intelligent businessperson, who had extremely high expectations and placed unrealistic demands on those who worked with him. For several weeks, I danced in this space of doing everything I could to make him happy, yet my actions never appeared to meet his expectations. Noticing that a colleague of mine seemed to connect better with the client, we collaborated to provide him with a high-level of service. One day everything came to a screeching halt when we were asked to deviate from our normal process, a decision that would have put our organization at risk.
We decided to fire him as a client, communicating that we were unwilling to jeopardize the integrity of our system and that it was best if he went to another company. Mentally I was ready to help him transition away, but to my surprise, he refused to leave. Instead, we reached a turning point in our relationship, and from that point forward we had his utmost respect and trust.
Not all situations will have the same result, but it’s worth the risk to ensure that your culture remains satisfying for employees. If you are genuinely interested in keeping the talent you hire, begin by looking at the spoiled brats that have been created by your organization.