Confusion seems to exist between the value of intentions and results in the workplace. Some people seem to think that if they have great intentions, the quality of their work should not be judged as critically as if their intentions had been harmful.
For example, a producer told me recently that because he always intends for his clients to get the best possible combination of price and coverage, the fact that he does not understand the coverages he is selling should not be a consideration of his competency. He went further by advising that because he makes good money, he should be judged as competent. The reality is he is making good money selling inadequate coverages because both he and his clients are ignorant. His competitors are most likely ignorant too or are otherwise incapable of causing his clients to understand his incompetency. If the latter is the case, I feel for the competitors because one walks a tight line explaining incompetence with enough delicacy but adequate force so that people will see the light.
A staff person recently advised that while they acknowledged their mistake rate was excessive, their intentions toward inputting the data correctly each time exceeded 100%, and therefore the employer should judge them on their intentions rather than their results.
Intentions are clearly important. In criminal courts and criminal statutes, intentions are considered. If intentions are considered in disastrous crimes, it makes sense to consider intentions in a work environment. In fact, anecdotally in insurance, when agents have good intentions but sell the wrong or inadequate coverages, insureds sometimes actually do refuse to make an E&O claim and the agent walks away scot free. I have seen some agents walk away from E&O claims that have amazed me with the insured agreeing to eat the entire loss.
Sooner or later though, selling inadequate or the wrong coverage results in E&O suits and reputational harm. Good intentions do not bankroll the damage. Good intentions do not restore the balance sheet or the reputation. If an employee has the greatest intentions but continually screws up, the employer is paying for those mistakes in multiple ways, including correcting the data (which means paying for the same job twice), potential reputational harm, potential E&O claims, and just plain frustration.
In the end, accuracy matters. If you are a person struggling to provide true quality results, but you have good intentions, more power to you. Get an education if that is what is holding you back. Become educated on coverages, on sales skills, on data input skills, on whatever it is that is holding you back because that is the only solution. If you have a personality trait that causes you to struggle with a particular work environment, get educated on how to better succeed in your environment or find an environment that better fits your needs. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received was given to me on my first day of college orientation at an elite engineering college when the speaker said something to the effect of, "Everyone in this room is super smart but the environment here only fits people with certain personalities, no matter how smart you are. A large portion of you will discover you need to find an environment that fits you better and absolutely do not take this as a swipe to your competency, intelligence, ability or future."
If you employ people with great intentions but they just can't cut it, find out if there is some unique training you can provide to help them overcome the situation. Otherwise, fire them. You are not doing them a service by enabling them to remain in a situation in which they are struggling and you are struggling with them. Use this opportunity to create a catalyst for them to find a job or environment that fits them more successfully.
NOTE: The information provided herein is intended for educational and informational purposes only and it represents only the views of the authors. It is not a recommendation that a particular course of action be followed. Burand Insurance Education, Burand & Associates, LLC and Chris Burand assume, and will have, no responsibility for liability or damage which may result from the use of any of this information.
None of the materials in this article should be construed as offering legal advice, and the specific advice of legal counsel is recommended before acting on any matter discussed in this article. Regulated individuals/entities should also ensure that they comply with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations.