Operator Anthony DeSousa offers this commentary on the riddle of the employee rollercoaster
The cycle repeats. Not with the regularity of earth’s orbit, instead more like a comet impacted by changes in gravity breaking apart in time. I’m describing the cycle of being a business owner approaching three decades of running businesses and the toll it takes watching employees burn up in orbit while you continually stand. Soon you metaphorically resemble the surface of the moon — full of craters that tell of your experiences. The shadows they cast expose your vulnerability. Yet, on you go, battered but still in orbit.
Many employees start out on the same path: excited, energetic … even elated. Time exposes the truth as incompatibilities deepen the cracks until the inevitable occurs: their mask crumbles, exposing the true being. Excitement erodes over time despite the bonuses, praise and growth and opportunities you create through risking everything you have (money, family, friends and your health). Envy is the replacement, representing the beginning of the end. Once the green-eyed-dragon infiltrates, all is lost; for envy has no saturation point.
The patterns become evident faster as the employee count clicks by, becoming a 3-digit number. You begin to recognize statements like: “I love this job, am never leaving” to mean that they are already done. Lies come in the form of death in the family, cats that are sick, fake hospitalizations that cannot produce a modicum of validation and on and on. What they are saying is they are not committed and don’t know how to leave. YET. Even large bonuses fail to overcome the changes lobbed by envy’s irrational outfield and misery is great at finding company. Good will and generosity are no longer seen as such, they become an expectation, like free lunch. Lack of boundaries brings about the most damage, for any affirmation of your own boundaries is seen as an affront rather than the simple statement they are: this is not acceptable. Hunger for hours, money and increased responsibility give way to demands and your fate is sealed. What to do? Should you close the business, rethink its structure or is it best to persevere knowing that those around you are like light bulbs with a life expectancy of x-hours? Given that none of these problems are new to employer/employee relations since the beginning of time, the answer is to drink a shake made of resilience, perseverance and improving your coefficient of efficiency. Fortify your position and seek the truth. Are you part of the problem? Does your management style work today vs. when you started? Times change!
Who stands with you until the merry-go-round ride ends? Your family. Blood or no blood. Protect them or the business perishes, for their support is like having rebar in your concrete: it’s much, much harder to break. I am not happy coming to these realizations but remain steadfast in my ability to ride out the storms while continuing to connect with the people who allow us the opportunity to grow — our customers. Never lose sight of who butters your bread, even when all hell has broken loose.
Over the last few years, we’ve broken every record the store has. We’ve become best of class in every way — EXCEPT we still have not broken the code of the human condition. What to do? Keep on keeping on! Remain kind and focus on your craft. Let the wrong people go faster and seize the opportunity to hire the right people even when you don’t have a position for them. Train and invest in the tools your people need to do their jobs well. Invest in building their character, in repairing the cracks in their armor put there by doubt, experiences and lack of self-confidence. But only do it sincerely. Only then do you stand a chance of breaking the cycle. I will continue trying until my dying day. Count on it.
Anthony DeSousa owns Antonio’s Real NY Pizza in Estes Park, Colorado.
Check out another Employee-focused story by Anthony: Hiring Based on Personality