How to turn good employees into bad ones. (It’s easier than you think)


Two speakers at the recent Hardlines Conference in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., talked about talented employees—how to attract them and how to keep them.

Eric Palmer (shown here), vice-president and GM of the Sexton Group Ltd., titled his talk, “The Evolution of a Team.” He explained how he was “team member 22” when he joined the Winnipeg-based organization in 2016. He said that frequent “one-on-one” talks between managers and employees is one of the strengths of his organization.

But these aren’t always easy talks. “It’s hard to hear what you’re not doing well,” Palmer said. But he reiterated that the support and training at Sexton Group is extensive. And each employee there is encouraged to have a career plan, so they aren’t just filling roles for paycheques.

Well, here’s what not to do, Palmer cautioned. He quoted HR expert Perry Belcher, who said: “Nothing will kill a great employee faster than watching you tolerate a bad one.”

Alison Fletcher, owner of five Cookery stores in Toronto and Montreal, also spoke about talent and her own career path. She presented her “Ego Meter” career path, a screen on which bad experiences at firms were coloured in red. And she’s worked for a lot of corporations, including Maple Leaf Foods, Tim Hortons, the George Weston Co., and Burger King.

Fired from Burger King, she decided to go her own way. “I was 43 years old, I’m a woman, I’m in management. I realized I’m going to have to chase work.” But that was something she didn’t want to do anymore. Instead, she decided it was time to “do what I loved in a way that I loved to do it.”

“It was impossible for me to believe that the right decisions were being made by the people who ran the company. The people that are getting in at 8 a.m. to serve the bad coffee they’ve been given to sell—they’re going home exhausted.”

Both speakers touched on the same message. If you want better employees, if you want a better effort, you’re going to have to lead from the front. Bad employees are created by bad management. Tough lesson, but a necessary one.