Years ago, when I worked as a college career counselor, I recommended one of my top students to Walt, a recruiter for local employer. When I called him, Walt and I agreed that she’d be a great match for his organization. On the day of the interview, the young lady showed up in my office in tears. It seemed she had arrived at Walt’s office five minutes late and he wouldn’t see her. I called Walt to appeal and he wouldn’t relent. “I hated to lose her,” he said, “But I have to draw the line someplace.” Then he said something that has stuck with me for three decades. “I bet she’ll never be late for another interview.”
I can’t keep count of the number of people I know who complain about the laxness with which many people make everyday decisions about punctuality, follow-through on projects and other commitments. But in a way, we are all part of the problem. Sure, we want to keep the good employee – so we let him flout the rules. Yes, the job market’s tight – so we excuse tardiness among applicants. Sure, the customer doesn’t pay on time, but deducts the pay-on-time discount from our check anyway.
These lapses, however, are just as much our responsibility. We allow people to sap our standards by rationalizing that there’s no option. But that’s not true. When we maintain our standards, those who share those standards will find us. Sure, it might it cost us an employee, applicant or customer or two. But it will also retain employees who have been irritated that the rules haven’t been enforced in the past. It will encourage the best applicants to apply for your positions because they practice higher standards. It will also garner you customers who pay on time, follow-through on commitments, and recommend you to others in the industry who look for reliable vendors.
Enforcing standards is a choice. Sure, you’ll probably deal with some short-term hiccups, but it will pay off long term. It’s your decision.