Several thoughts came to mind while reading your post. If this
employee is talented, and I think you said he is, he may be well
worth the effort to find a compromise.
Have you considered that he could be feeling burned out on bench
work? Or that he’s charged up by taking on this newer territory of
working with customers? Perhaps he’s realized he needs more human
interaction than the bench typically offers. Or it could be that he’s
going through a period of personal hardship, like marriage or
parenting issues, and has better success keeping them "off the clock"
when he’s mentally engaged with customers than when he’s at the
My guess is that there’s a reason, or several of them, as to why he’s
become problematic enough to you that you’re looking to replace him.
I doubt it’s a matter of defiance or that he’s changed from being a
good employee to an undesirable one in terms of work ethic.
I recommend trying to discover what’s causing his undesirable
behavior and exploring compromises and/or incentives to get him back
on track. This is much more likely to produce results that are better
for both you and him.
If I were in your shoes, I’d openly talk with him about your concerns
and ask him why he’s electing not to perform up to his potential at
the bench, continually favoring the sales floor. It may even help to
ask him if specific issues are contributing, such as burn out.
I’d really listen to what he says and acknowledge his thoughts and
feelings. At the same time, I’d explain my needs to him. It may help
to remind him that you’re paying him whatever you are based on his
bench skills and you’re relying on his work in order to meet your
financial ends. If he’s on the floor, you’re faced with two problems
- that the work load he’s responsible for carrying isn’t getting
done, and that he’s not utilizing skills that his level of pay costs
you. Basically, you’re out the productivity and you’re out the higher
Hopefully at that point both you and he have a clearer understanding
of what both of you need and want for a positive, mutually beneficial
relationship. Perhaps you could compromise on allowing him to work
the floor for a few hours each week as long as his primary
obligations are met.
The bottom line is that often times agreeable solutions are just a
matter of two-way communication and pulling together on needs and
wants. Sometimes it looks easier not to bother and replace the
employee but in reality, if the person in question has a good history
with you, it’s not so easy to find a better one.
Every time you fire one person and hire another, you’re exchanging
one set of imperfections for another. You’re not going to know if the
swap gets you anywhere either - you may find the replacement to be
more problematic! Plus your shop loses a great deal of efficiency in
I’ve seen decent workers leave due to the temporary issues mentioned,
only to be replaced by people who had more impacting, non-temporary
problems. Nobody is perfect, it’s all a matter of degree, tolerance
and striving for the happiest median between the two.
Good luck to you, I hope you’ll be able to attain the best solution
for your situation!
Regards, Jeanette Kekahbah