Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Improve employee teamwork by picking a fight!

Ok, I didn’t exactly pick the fight on purpose… It just sorta happened because in my normal read-a-book-and-instantly-implement-a-great-idea method I didn’t bother to inquire of the team what they thought…

Anyway – maybe I was a bit over-excited about Sam Carpenter’s suggestion about PTO (Paid Time Off) in his book, Work the System… After all, as I stated before, that single idea was worth reading the entire rest of the book (yes, including his hippie woodstock stories). So why didn’t my team love the idea as much as me??? Did I present it wrong? Not explain it well enough? Not review the benefits clearly? Possibly I should have asked them to participate in the decision to implement PTO to improve team buy-in…

Possibly all of those… Or possibly none of those… Actually, it doesn’t really matter to me why they hated the idea. Let me explain.

First off, PTO is simply paying someone immediately for their vacation and sick time so they don’t have any “accumulated” sick or vacation days. In other words, if you pay someone $10 per hour, they earn 40 hours of vacation per year, and you pay them bi-weekly (26 times per year) then each paycheck will include a PTO Earned bonus of $15.38 (40/26*10). That means that they earn 1.538 hours of Paid Time Off per paycheck and multiplied by their hourly rate of $10 they have earned $15.38 hours of “vacation” that I paid them for immediately.

For my business, I loved the idea for a few reasons:

  1. Since people are paid ahead of time and generally aren’t great savers, the chances they can afford to leave the office and take a 2-week vacation all at once are pretty slim. When someone who is an integral part of the business takes such a long vacation all at once it hurts the business, stresses the team, and our customer complaints instantly go up. In theory I thought PTO would take care of that.
  2. We offered Sick/Personal days as part of a perk. That always seemed silly to me… How can I know how many Sick/Personal days a person will need at the beginning of the year for that year? And if they don’t “need” any then people feel obligated to take them which negates the whole point of a Sick/Personal day. It’s not meant as a day to just use even when you’re not sick since you have it available. With PTO if they take off a day, they don’t get paid since they were already paid ahead of time… So according to Mr. Carpenter, in his office absenteeism dropped 80%. Makes sense to me.

Lucky for me, the Team Building exercise the week after I implemented the PTO was a review of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team as taught in the book of the same name by Patrick Lencioni. Part of that was a review of the first rule being, “an absence of trust”. Without getting too caught up in the lessons of that book, one idea is that a team that trusts each other is not afraid to “argue” and bring up points of disagreement. It’s important that everyone brings up any frustrations or varying point of view during meetings so that an open debate can ensue and everyone knows that their opinion matters. That allows everyone to then buy-in to the final decision discussed whether they originally agreed with that or not. You see where I’m going with this?

I implemented PTO unilaterally. Some team members hated the idea and several others were indifferent. No one was on my side. :-/

So we hashed it out. I let everyone speak their mind and then I explained the 2 reasons listed above that were important to me as benefits that PTO provided. I then asked them to give me a better program or system for allowing the above 2 goals to be met without PTO. So they did. They suggested to adopt as policy that no one could take off 2 weeks of vacation at once and that no 2 people in the same department could take off a week of vacation each back-to-back during peak season. They also suggested that we just ditch Sick/Personal days altogether. Seriously – I never even hinted at that. Someone suggested it and I verified with everyone that, that was acceptable. Everyone agreed. 🙂

At any rate, we no longer have PTO, however we don’t have to worry about someone taking off 2 weeks in a row and we won’t have a problem with someone abusing sick/personal days. Moreover, the whole team made that decision together as a team so everyone bought-into the new policies and felt better about being able to reason with the Team Leader…

Maybe implementing PTO, even for its short-lived glory days of 1 week, was actually a brilliant idea… 😉

To your success, Bryan