He was a handsome young man and seemed to have his life together. He was dressed well for his interview and gave good answers to my questions. Dave was hired that day to fill the position of foreman, and we were happy to have him. We needed a reliable person in this position. The position of foreman not only brought opportunities for advancement in management, but it also carried the responsibility of leadership to the other employees under the foreman’s care.
A month went by, and Dave fit his position well. The other workers thought well of Dave. Dave had a way of keeping the morale of the crews up. People liked working with Dave and sought to be on projects where he was foreman. Dave worked well from the perspective of those above him too. He was always on time, usually 15 minutes early to work. He turned in all of his paperwork ahead of schedule and kept his eye on deadlines. I felt a sense of pride knowing I had hired him.
It is due to this sense of pride that the following events, I write in hindsight, were upsetting to me.
Dave had been working for the company for close to a year when his behavior began to change, though the change was not extreme at first.
Dave didn't arrive early to work as consistently as he had, and sometimes he was late. Monday mornings were the worst. Dave always had reasons he was late. "Oh it's just another Monday," he would say. "I will just work a few minutes later and make up for it," he would retort. But that is not what we needed. The company needed someone to work during the period of time already set as work time. As each person decides for him or herself what is the correct time to work by being late, the overall productivity rate of the company drops. We need everyone hired to be on time and work until quitting time and, as a foreman, we relied on Dave to set this example.
Other problems became prevalent as well. Dave began to have mood swings. During different tense situations Dave would become irritable and yell at other workers. Dave would apologize to these workers eventually. He would always have an excuse like, "I had a bad night last night," or "I am just really tired." But his fellow workers believed his apologies less and less as his poor behavior continued.
As I watched the bonds he had built with coworkers deteriorate, the success rate of the projects he worked on also suffered. It was at this point that I called him into my office for his year-end review.
On my way to the office for this meeting I passed by the employee lunchroom and heard a number talking about this last weekend. It sounded as though a couple of them had gone to a party together. The one comment I heard that stood out to me was, "No one can drink as much as Dave can." I felt my gut hurt a little as my mind said "uh-oh."
As I continued to walk up the hallway, my mind’s eye went to the words that King Lemuel's mother had told him (you can read more about this in Proverbs 31:1-7). Dave may not have been a king, but he was a ruler of sorts; we give it the name
foreman. King Lemuel's mother was trying to point out that it is not good for those in office to drink to intoxication as they will forget the laws (in this case the rules of conduct set forward by the company). Rulers are relied on not only to show the proper example of living, but to stand up for the needs of the people they serve. Dave had started well in this task, working for the well-being of his coworkers, but that had changed and, whether Dave wanted to admit it or not, it had changed due to his misuse of alcohol.
As I sat down in my chair, I heard a knock at my office door. Dave came in and sat down in the chair across the desk from me. A few seconds went by and silence was all there was to be heard. I was formalizing what needed to be said in my mind when Dave chimed in. "I'm sorry," he said. For a brief second I glanced up at him wondering if I was now the victim of an apology that had no meaning. Dave continued, "I am serious. I know that I have let you down. I know that I have let the company down. But I don't want to lose my job. I have a wife and new baby." He then hung his head down and awaited my words.
Dave was right in his feelings. I had called him into my office to discuss the downward trend I had seen in his duties. However, my delivery changed. I heard his apology; his acceptance that he was not performing well. Dave was not acting defensively, so I wanted to work with him. Over the next 30 minutes we discussed his future with the company. All of which was based upon Dave getting help for his alcoholism from Alcoholics Anonymous and any other rehab program that was needed. Dave was not only willing to admit he had a problem, but that he was causing problems for others and wanted to change.
From an employer’s point of view, it is always better to bring problems you are having forward. Talk to people in your human resources department. These conversations are confidential. They can be great sources for getting help, or to steer you to the right places for that help. An employer (most of the time) is willing to work with a person who is trying to get better. But the person who never admits or understands the problems he or she is causing will not work for the company long.
Dave has now worked for the company for over five years. After taking a few days off, he did find the help that he needed and began to improve his life’s performance. His coworkers are happy in this change, wanting to work with him again. The managers are also happy knowing that they are getting what they pay him for. Dave continues in his devotion to the people he works with. Dave understands that the things he does in his personal life do affect everyone else around him, including those at work. That fact has made all the difference.