by Lauren Owen, MBA, Redpoint Coaching
You suffer from “presenteeism” in your business if you have one or several staff members who are physically present at the job but whose productivity is limited due to physical, mental, or emotional afflictions. They may be employees who are toughing out illness or chronic afflictions. Or, they may be physically healthy but have a high desire to leave their job but don’t. These employees tend to have lower commitment, be more dissatisfied with their jobs and reduce morale on their team. In effect, they’ve “retired on the job.”
Presenteeism is estimated to occur three times more often than absenteeism. (Health & Wellness Research Database, 2005)
In our work with family businesses, we’ve seen both managers and rank and file employees who suffer from presenteeism. Besides the impact on team morale, they cause work load issues for those who work with them. By far the worst impact, however, is when it’s either the founder or next generation member who suffers from presenteeism.
Maybe it’s a founder who lost his passion for the work 10 years prior but never retired because he couldn’t think of something better to do. Maybe it’s a son or daughter (or cousin or aunt) who was never suited for their job, never wanted it, but felt pressured by other family members to join the company and ended up staying. Or maybe it’s the sibling who didn’t get picked as the next leader, stayed with the company, but has harbored resentments and ill-will resulting in poor (or no) performance on the job.
The impact of a presentee owner or successor on a family-owned company can be devastating. Opportunities are lost, key employees leave, and potential suitable successors walk away in frustration. The value of the business (typically more than 90% of a family’s networth) spirals downward.
Presenteeism often is THE huge “elephant in the room” (issues that everyone knows about but no one wants to talk about) for many family businesses.
As with any other elephant in the room, the best way to deal with it is to 1) bring it out into the open and 2) put structures in place to prevent it from happening in the future. Easier said than done we know (especially when you have a presentee founder), but here is some food for thought:
- Does your company have a culture of continuous improvement and open and constructive feedback, for all employees, including the owners?
- Are there formal evaluations and informal one-on-ones for employees, including family members?
- Does your ownership report to an outside board and is that board composed of members who can and will hold the owners accountable for their performance (or lack thereof)?
- Is there a policy in place for hiring family members that includes written job descriptions, interviews, and evaluation for job fit before they are brought into the company?
- If there is an existing family member not performing up to expectations, what’s the plan for addressing the issue? What needs to happen for this “elephant” to be dealt with?