The other day, a business owner from Florida contacted me to discuss a problem employee. The employee in question is a well-paid Account Manager who oversees multiple landscape maintenance and landscape construction work crews. The owner informed me that the Account Manager has become increasingly difficult over the past 6-8 months, demonstrating reluctance if not blatant refusal to submit enhancements proposals and work order paperwork on time to the office staff, as well as publicly telling others in a condescending tone “don’t worry about what ’so and so’ tells you to do because she is nothing but an office worker.”

The owner has coached the difficult Account Manager about his behavior several times informally. But, because the Account Manager “always gets the number,” the owner does not want the Account Manager to feel bad, which may cause him to leave the company and potentially take some of his key employees and cherished clients to a competitor.

I explained to the owner that there are three common sets of goals employees are typically held accountable for achieving:


1) Outcome Goals

Standard empirical goals like: sales goals, gross margin goals, employee staffing goals, customer retention goals, and/or safety goals. These goals are typically quantitative in nature and easy to evaluate regarding feedback, rewards and recognition, and action planning.

2) Process Goals

These goals are procedural in nature and serve to keep internal systems (e.g., accounting, purchasing, safety) functioning in an efficient fashion. These goals include: completing all new hire paperwork accurately and on time, bringing a proposal sheet to every walk-through, ensuring all vehicles and equipment are properly fueled at the end of each work shift, and submitting all approved timesheets by close of business on Friday.

3) Culture Goals

Unlike the previous two sets of goals, this goal type is less tangible, more personal, and often times under-reported. These goals include: treating employees with respect consistent with the company’s core values, offering to help other employees as an act of teamwork even if a formal request was not made, role modeling certain behaviors to other employees as a way to demonstrate a conscientious, professional, and ethical approach to one’s work performance.

In discussing these three types of goals to the owner, I specified the unique value of achieving each of them as well as the tangible liability for failing to accomplish them consistently. For example, failing to achieve outcome goals can lead to organizational demise by not reaching performance objectives; failing to achieve process goals necessarily creates inefficiency, frustration, and bureaucracy; and failing to achieve culture goals often creates insidious feelings of interpersonal disrespect, passive-aggressive responsiveness, and increasing toxicity in the workplace.

I suggested that the owner begin documenting all three sets of goals on the Account Manager and discuss them with him during regularly-scheduled weekly one-on-one meetings. I reminded the owner that if she does not address all three of them consistently, she will begin to lose credibility with the other employees, in that she will implicitly codify a “double-standard” precedent, which will inevitably lead to other instances, employees, and contexts, that will definitively place her company at serious operational, administrative, and legal peril.

If you have any questions or comments about this topic or anything else related to human resources, simply call me at (760) 685-3800.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.