By Jim Cory A few years ago, Ben Tyler of Ben Tyler Building and Remodeling in Louisville, Ky., had a problem. Two lead carpenters were feuding.
"They'd both been with me for quite a while," Tyler says. "They did a good job, technically. They handled clients well. They just couldn't handle each other."
Tyler says he became aware of the situation when each of the contenders came to him complaining about the other. Then he noticed that people in the company were choosing sides. Finally, at a Thursday morning supervisors meeting, an open argument broke out. "These guys were nearly at blows," Tyler recalls.
To resolve the problem, Tyler first tried talking to each of the employees separately. "I told them they were the role models, that they needed to get along for the future of the company." When that failed to produce results, he sought the help of a human resources expert, who suggested testing to establish personality characteristics. That, too, failed. Eventually the antagonists voluntarily left the company.
Tyler says that as a result of the situation, he created a personnel manual and changed his hiring practices. Now he hires on the basis of attitude more than skill. "Skill you can train for," he says. "Attitude is a little harder to work on." He sends new field hires directly to jobsites to work with one of his lead carpenters. Ninety days in the field tells him much more about how an employee gets along with others than anything said in a job interview. "We have a theory: If the gear doesn't fit, the machine'll spit it out."