Building on the earlier post about the cost of employee errors, this one is about particular experience we had. I found a large coffee stain on the floor near the center console of the SUV we own and use to travel to research projects. Mock jury research requires a large amount of equipment to be transported to the research facility usually in the trial venue and our team must travel as well. This Suburban served us well for many years and we often transported clients in it. We maintained it carefully, so when I found this stain I was surprised for three reasons. First, neither my spouse/partner or I drink coffee, second, no one mentioned it prior to my finding it, and third, apparently nothing had been done to clean it. There were 2 possible “perpetrators” but neither of them ever recalled having spilled coffee. So, of course, at our expense, it was cleaned as well as it could be. But, for me it was impossible to be completely comfortable going forward with these 2 employees using the Suburban. Preventing such things is impossible. We implemented a new policy stating no one should have uncapped or uncovered beverages in our vehicle. But, the damage was done in this situation and could not be completely undone. Certainly, much worse things could have happened. And, as disappointing as it is to employers, we know we have to expect that something else will happen one day. My advice, don’t overreact, just try to take as many precautions as possible before it does (including insurance for appropriate items) and consider policies on what you will do when it does happen. Employees need to realize that their employers are entrusting assets to them and that these assets are not to be misused. The lack of respect shown in such examples is tremendous and is harmful in many ways. If “accidents” happen, say something, admit it, and make your own immediate, personal, efforts to remedy the problem even before reporting the problem.
We have consulted on many tragic cases involving employees who have had serious, often fatal, accidents while driving their employer’s vehicle. It is always amazing to me that many employees seem to believe their employer’s vehicle (not to mention other property) is a benefit to which they are entitled. In the cases on which we have worked, the employee driving the employer’s vehicle was inattentive, or worse, caused an accident, resulting in the employer being sued by the person(s) injured by the negligent employee. Although, fortunately, my company has never experienced any such accidents or been sued as a result of an employee’s negligent operation of my and my partner’s vehicle, we nonetheless have been taken advantage of by our employees on many occasions. Interestingly, on 100% of the occasions when one of our employees has broken or otherwise ruined something in our vehicle, it has been my partner and me, and never the negligent employee, who has to pay for the damage caused by the employee. Not once, ever, in all of our years in business has an employee offered to pay for the damage they did to our vehicle or other property. (In David’s example of the spilled coffee, the stain never completely came out and the Suburban was sold, many years later, with the ugly stain still visible.) These employees’ callous attitude toward us, their employer, is even more interesting when the small size of our company is considered. We are not a huge, faceless corporation that provides company vehicles to our employees. Instead, the employees drive their personal vehicle to my spouse/business partner’s and my home, leave their vehicle in the driveway of our home, and drive our personal vehicle from our home to the office, then to wherever we are working. It doesn’t get much more personal than this, but in all our years of business, we are still waiting for one special employee to accept responsibility for damage done to our vehicle or other property. Needless to say, I am not holding my breath while I wait for this to happen!