Tough Call: Something’s gotta give

You suspect that a couple of your top people are starting to burn out, but they disagree and keep asking for more work. What would you do?

The slow, steady growth in the economy has been great for your company. Builder customers are all booked out months in advance, and the work you’ve put into your team, your products, and your systems is paying off in spades. Year-over-year sales continue to climb, margins are strong, plus your people are great at what they do, they’re earning healthy incomes, and they’re years away from retirement. So, all is well…for now. It’s what you think is coming for a couple of them that worries you.

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Susan has headed up your company’s operations for nearly 10 years. When it comes to keeping things running smoothly, and managing tough situations before they escalate into crises, there’s no one better. Plus, she’s one of those highly productive people who somehow finds ways to squeeze more work into each day. As your company has grown over the past decade, Susan’s job has grown with it—in both complexity and volume. When your company recently converted to a new software platform, she insisted on overseeing the conversion process and employee train- ing herself. Not only has she not taken as much as a week off in the last two years, she’s now averaging well over 60 hours per week.

Nate began working with your company sweeping floors and stocking shelves in the mid-1990s and has spent the past five years as your warehouse manager. His job, like Susan’s, has continued to get bigger and more complicated as your sales volume has increased. Your one warehouse is still only open five days a week, but during that time, there’s much more material coming in, more going out. To his credit, Nate has stepped up to this logistical challenge and has created ways to keep your drivers delivering on-time, and in-full. As with Susan, that accomplishment has come at a price— with Nate consistently working at least 12-hours a day.

Since nothing happens without your people, and you care about them as individuals, you make a  sincere effort to make sure they are happy and healthy. That’s not always easy, especially when it comes to Nate and Susan. When you’ve suggested working fewer hours, and taking more time for themselves, they each push back and insist they can do more. When you’ve talked about hiring some people to take over some of their duties, they both state that training someone new would take more time than doing it them- selves. Plus, if there’s money for new staffers, how about add that to their paychecks? You’ve done that before, why not just keep doing it?

The reason is that they’re both beginning to show signs of employee burnout, like being more sensitive to feedback, a sense that they’re exhausted, and some disengagement from their colleagues. You want to do something before they truly do burn out…but what?

  • LIMIT Put a hard limit on the number of hours that salaried people can work per week. Track it and enforce it.
  • LET IT Susan and Nate are both grownups, and they know their limits. Since both insist that they’re fine and want more to do, take them at their word.
  • Reward team members who continually push themselves to take on more by rewarding them with more money and more responsibility.
  • HIRE! It’s your job to take care of your If people are working an unhealthy number of hours, then it’s up to you to lighten their load—whether they agree or not.

What would you do?

SOMETHING ELSE?

If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to James@LBMJournal.com. If we publish your reply, we’ll send you an LBM Journal mug.

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