Protecting the brand against deviant employee behaviour

A fast food store worker relieves himself after-hours in a kitchen sink instead of going to the bathroom. An employee in another outlet uses the kitchen sink as a bath, and uploads the photos for the world to see.

In the drive-through of another store, an employee sells drugs to customers who know to use a special phrase when ordering their meal.

Sounds like urban mythology, but each of these incidents have actually occurred.
Fast food chains are occasionally beset by stories of staff behaving badly, particularly in the United States where such chains are even more ubiquitous than in Australia, and where by comparison, a greater proportion of young adults are likely to find work.
But what can franchisors do to protect their networks from the actions of rogue or vexatious employees whose behaviour can cause untold damage to corporate reputations?

Perhaps the best place to start is not with the employees themselves, but rather, the franchisees who employ them.

The logic behind this suggestion is simple: Employees who are happy with their workplace and feel valued and respected in their work environment are much less likely to take a leak in the kitchen sink.

It should be obvious really, but it begs the question about the kind of environment and conditions imposed on these employees that might contribute to the bizarre notion that their vulgar behaviour is somehow justified.

The examples above are drawn from the United States, where minimum wages are so low that mature fast food workers with families to support can often be working for as little as eight dollars an hour.

Debate about increasing minimum wages levels in the US has reached as high as the White House, with the President himself recommending an increase of at least 20%. This is still considered by many to be unviable for workers, while powerful lobby groups have rejected the idea of raises on the basis that it will destroy businesses and employment opportunities. So in the meantime, people urinate in the same kitchen sink where cooking utensils are washed.

Deviant behaviour like this is not limited to an exclusively fast-food or franchised workplace, but in a franchised workplace, there is a layer of influence beyond that of the employer, and that is the franchisor.

So just because the government sets a minimum wage level for workers, which in turn contributes toward an adversarial environment that may contribute to deviant behaviour, franchisors in this scenario should also be working more closely with their franchisees to create more fulfilling and rewarding roles for their employees.

But in the absence of practical guidance from above, franchisees will often find that any freedom to make decisions outside of the franchise agreement also come with the freedom to make the wrong decisions, and decisions which can potentially damage not only their business, but the brand as a whole.

This is why good franchisors provide very detailed guidance to franchisees about how to hire, pay, train and manage employees, with the better franchisors recognising that this is a continual process of improvement rather than a one-off project.

By developing and refining employee engagement systems for their franchisees, franchisors are adding value to their franchisees’ businesses, as well as
limiting their own exposure to deviant employee behaviour.

The more robust the systems and processes developed by the franchisor, the less likely a
franchisee will mishire or mistreat their employees. Such a proactive approach is a much better way to manage franchisees and employees, and just might help weed out the kinds of employees who can’t tell the difference between a sink and a toilet.

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