Standards Slip Slowly At First, Then Rapidly

A while back, a concierge of my apartment building was caught breaking into a neighbour’s apartment and rummaging through their possessions.

It’s easy to take necessary disciplinary measures against the individual and consider the matter settled.

It’s far more effective to look at the system which enabled this to happen. Once you look at the system, you can begin to notice how the standards have steadily fallen when enabling this to happen. This includes:

  • Salaries of staff members not keeping pace with inflation. This both encourages theft and high-rates of churn.
  • Failing to replace staff members quick enough leading to stressed out staff.
  • Deteriorating relationships between staff and residents (due to the above two factors).
  • Shortcuts were increasingly taken to save time (notably with spare keys being kept in the mailroom accessible by all staff instead of locked in a safe accessible only by the building manager).
  • Not undertaking a proper background check on staff.
  • Failing to properly follow-up on past concerns by residents of missing valuables.

Sure, it was the rogue concierge who committed the crime, but it was a slow erosion of high standards which created the environment for this to happen. Simply recruiting a new staff member doesn’t solve the underlying problem.

This happens in communities too. A major ‘blow-up’ is rarely the result of a single unexpected incident. It’s almost always the result of standards that have declined rapidly over time. These standards often begin with recruiting but continue with how members are engaged, treated, and concerns acted upon.

It’s easy to dismiss the minor things, like grumbles from members about how they’re treated. But these are usually the first warning signs that your standards are slipping. Better to deal with it now than later.

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