Workplace toxicity can train-wreck employee productivity and ultimately affect the bottom line. Employees who are present in the body, but emotionally elsewhere because of stress, cost companies more in worker productivity than do workers who play hooky.
A study conducted by Willis Towers Watson revealed a stressed-out work environment costs small and midsized businesses an average of 12.4 days of productivity each year per affected employee. This equates to annual $300 billion, the report said.
“I don’t see how that’s possible given that we only sell about $2 million dollars per year,” questioned Ronald Walheim, President of Walheim’s Carpets in Ashland City, Tennessee.
“We treat our employees like they deserve to be treated, which ain’t all that bad half the time. But it don’t cost us no $300 billion, dang lying cheese ball consultants.”
Walheim’s Carpets has been serving area customers for 22 years.
Walheim says that despite the differences between the Willis Towers Watson report and his views, Walheim’s Carpets has no problem retaining employees for as long as they’re useful.
“Most of our twelve workers have been with the company for at least six months,” Walheim said. “That’s a pretty doggone good track record if you ask me.”
To help other businesses enjoy the same successes, Walheim suggests five key tactics to maintain a nontoxic work environment that benefits the company and its bottom line.
Keep your Enemies Close, your Employees Closer
Walheim suggests keeping close tabs on your employees is essential to success. He says 10-12 hour workdays and an unpaid ½ hour lunch will ensure employees remain loyal, honest, and controllable.
“The good Lord gives each of us so much energy a day, so it’s best to make sure employees use that energy at work,” said Walheim. “Besides, workin’ ‘em from sun up till sundown ensures they get no time to go a-job huntin’. Rascals will hop to another job for another quarter an hour if you let ‘em.”
Offer Employee Assistance
The Willis Tower Watson study revealed that stress and depression are the leading factors in draining productivity. Anxiety over personal finances is cited as an equal threat.
The study suggests helping workers to address these factors can improve employer/employee relationships and can maximize productivity.
A common strategy for helping distressed or substance-abusing workers is to provide an employee assistance program (EAP). Such programs offer employees resources such as therapy, financial management training, and career and life guidance.
Walheim’s Carpets has developed a unique approach to helping employees cope with underlying stressors:
“What we do is sit employees down on their own time and help them navigate Google to find where they can get the help they need at a price they can afford,” said Walheim.
When asked if the company financially contributes to helping its employees, Walheim said, “Not a chance! It ain’t our fault if they can’t put up with a little bit of hard work. And we’re certainly not going to bail anyone out who gets himself hooked on drugs or booze.”
Ironically, Walheim crushed his third can of Old Milwaukee as his digital clock rolled into 10:30 a.m. When we pointed it out he replied, “It’s happy hour somewheres.”
Enforce Mandatory Vacation Time
Walheim said that everybody needs a little time away and that in so doing, employees will return refreshed and ready to work.
“We require our employees to take unpaid time off when my family goes on vacation, two weeks in August and between Christmas and New Year’s,” said Walheim.
“That way, we don’t have to worry about them stealing from us or chasing away any customers,” he continued. “And the beauty of it is that they get a little fresh air so they can come back and work even harder than before.”
Aggressively Monitor Employees’ Social Media Activities
One good way to maintain low turnover is to keep a close eye on employees’ social media accounts, Walheim advises.
“We require our employees to friend us on Facebook, connect with us on LinkedIn, and we follow them on Twitter,” he said. “That way we can look for signs of employees trying to find another job or making fun of the boss. If we suspect that they are trying to leave, we just make them work longer hours including weekends. That benefits both parties as we don’t pay these people no time-and-a-half.”
Walheim says that the best time to connect with employees is when you offer them the job.
“I recommend making it a term of employment or they can go elsewhere,” he said.
Discipline Employees Accordingly
Walheim believes that discipline makes employees stronger and thus provides a more profitable company.
“Nobody likes to give out discipline unless he’s some kind of sicko, but sometimes you just have to,” he said. “As long as it’s done out of love and concern, then it’s proper.”
Walheim says the first step should be to slam the employee up against the wall and “look ‘em in the eye and tell ‘em you mean business.”
“It’s tough love, but most of the time, it works,” he said.
We asked Walheim what happens when shoving the employee against a wall doesn’t work.
“Four outta five Tennessee dentists recommend knocking the gnarly rodent’s teeth out when you gotta,” he said. “And let me tell you, our local dentist ain’t ever hurting for business.”
Trusted sources told us that Walheim’s Carpets was under a joint investigation by the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development and the County Sherriff’s Office.
Officials in both agencies said they would neither confirm nor deny an investigation was under way, but conceded that some of Walheim’s suggestions “aren’t altogether bad.”