Shoot And Ask Questions Later

I make it a point to learn a life lesson every day. I share those lessons on this blog. Here is today’s…


I had a “tough” conversation with an employee who strayed from our company culture (through no fault of her own). Managing independent remote workers presents unique challenges, such as how to handle lost or stolen equipment.

In this case, the employee replaced a fairly expensive item out of her own pocket before telling us it had been stolen. She tried to do the right thing, figuring it was her equipment, her fault, and it should be her loss, not our responsibility to pay for her mistake.

That says something to me about the team member’s commitment to the organization, but it was the wrong course of action to take. I should note the reason I think she is committed to our team is because we do things differently, including handling situations like this.

I applauded her effort to make amends on her own, but explained we do not do things that way here. We do not expect employees to pay for lost or stolen items (unless there is a pattern building or clear malintent). Plus, having an employee replace an item means they may choose something different from the tools we specifically provided based on form, function, and safety. Through their good intentions, they may open us up to unnecessary liability.

I thanked the employee for dipping into her pocket to save us money but we decided to reimburse her expense, and going forward she needs to be upfront and inform us right away of any missing or stolen item. When you have a team of independent remote workers, honest and open timely communication is a necessity.

She said, “Wow, thank you. I guess I am not used to this type of culture. Anywhere I have worked before, I would have been fired for losing something so expensive. I don’t know what to say. This is a great place to work and I apologize for jeopardizing that if I did. Thank you again!”

Now here is the real win. Rather than punishing and making an example of this employee, we chose to correct the behavior, set new expectations, and thanked her for trying to do the right thing. We started the call explaining our intent was to help her succeed here and ended the call asking if she needed anything else to help her be successful.

Instead of losing our investment in this employee (and our equipment) by letting her go or punishing her for her mistake, I suspect we doubled her investment in the company. My guess is she will do better work than ever and set the standard of integrity for other team members. We will gain a lot more than we lost in the long run.

Punishment is effective the way a bullet is effective. It stops whatever it hits and kills it. Respectful acknowledgment, correction, and reward is effective the way a good book is effective. It takes a little time to get through but at the end it expands knowledge, generates emotional attachment, and improves one’s character.

Books over bullets works for me.