Anecdotally, through my experiences, I have witnessed numerous times where a departmental Chief or shift administrator will establish new expectations or measures of performance for employees. Generally, performance expectations are set to assuage a new demand from external sources or to address a potentially dangerous emerging trend. Even if the evidence for the new expectation is compelling and thoughtful, many times, employees view the new standard for performance as suspect at best. Employees often discount it as temporary, arbitrary, or misguided. Many times, employees will judge a performance expectation against their own internal emotional beliefs of how a thing should or should not operate; instead of a rational weighing of the evidence while being mindful that they are the employee, not the boss. As an employee, they were hired to do the work of the organization. The people who run the organization get to set performance standards and it is the responsibility of the employee to put those standards into motion.
For example, and probably the easiest example to use for this illustration could be traffic enforcement. Most people would agree that a major function of the police is to perform a traffic safety function. Traffic safety is a major issue for the Country. Academics, insurance companies, and government agencies regularly note that traffic safety is essential and traffic crashes are a leading cause of death; especially for children. As a matter of fact, traffic fatalities have led to many advances in automotive design; such as, air bags, antilock brakes, emergency braking, back up cameras, child car seats, and lane departure warnings to name a few.
So, with the importance of performing a traffic safety function as a police demand in mind, I have seen departments implement traffic enforcement criteria for it’s employees. Now, this is not a quota, but an activity measure. For example, police departments can set a number of expected traffic stops or contacts; such as 1 an hour, or an amount of time spent working near a high crash intersection to intervene in crash causing violations like running red lights.
Now, with this new traffic safety performance expectations, most people would anticipate the number of citations issued for traffic violations would increase and the police would be participating in making the roads safer for motorist. However, many times the reverse is true. The employee becomes annoyed and irritated that they’re being told what to do, or that traffic enforcement isn’t something they like or want to do, so they begin to devise ways to avoid doing work and avoid complying with the employer’s work rules. The employee will express knowing they have to make the minimum number of stops, but they don’t have to write tickets, or they can sit at a high crash intersection and report not seeing a single violation. These employees are either now cheating, being dishonest, or not fulfilling their obligation to the department or the motoring public. Perhaps worse, the employee is now complicate in creating unsafe roadways for our children and families. This performance behavior needs addressed.
Employees need to know it is not always up to them to decide how and when they’ll perform. Refusing to do reasonable work to improve safety or reduce criminal activity is unacceptable and punishable. Refusal to work should begin the process of intervention, counseling, training, and termination if warranted. Imagine this: would you even hire a prospective employee in the first place if they told you in their interview that they would refuse to do work and only choose to do work that they felt was appropriate? When hired, the employee chose to enter into a contract with the employer that he/she agreed to do the work of the employer in exchange for a paycheck. The employer is paying the employee to accomplish the goals of the organization. When an employee refuses to do this, then it’s time for the boss to be the boss and take appropriate intervention measures.