Silent consent, also know as the silent killer.

Dave Borowski
Contributing Writer
Success Academy

Let’s look at the definition of consent:

Voluntary acquiescence to the proposal of another; the act or result of reaching an accord; a concurrence of minds; actual willingness that an act or an infringement of an interest shall occur.

Consent is an act of reason and deliberation.  A person who possesses and exercises sufficient mental capacity to make an intelligent decision demonstrates consent by performing an act recommended by another.  Consent assumes a physical power to act and a reflective, determined, and unencumbered exertion of these powers.  It is an act unaffected by fraud, duress, or sometimes even mistake when these factors are not the reason for the consent.  Consent is implied in every agreement.

How does silent consent impact your business?  In numerous ways, and before you read on – if the cold hard truth is offensive to you, stop now.

You do it, I know you do it.  To some degree we all make conscious and unconscious exceptions to the rules.   Let me give you a few examples.

  • One of your top performing techs shows up late for a mandatory safety meeting…
  • One of your top installers is wearing sneakers instead of safety shoes…
  • One of your best employees has a hygiene or appearance issue…
  •  One of your best techs has cash missing from an invoice from last week…
  •  One of your senior techs refuses to wash his truck – even flaunts it…
  • One of your administrators routinely comes back late for lunch…
  •  One of your best CSRs is impolite to a customer or fellow worker…
  • You overhear a sexist or racially biased joke…

In each scenario, you knew better, but you made a choice.  You might have even justified your failure to take action as:

  • “I choose my battles…” 
  • “I’ll take action later…”
  • “I’ll make a point to address this in an ANONYMOUS message at the next meeting…
  •  “I really don’t want to rock the boat… good employees are hard to find…”
  •  “Boys will be boys…”

You should understand as a manager/owner your employees crave your acceptance.  Your actions, or more importantly failing to take action, is absolutely insidious to your business.   If you noticed it, likely some or all of your employees noticed it, and your failure to represent those abiding employees delivers a crushing blow to their allegiance.   Like it or not, senior employees and top performers become role models in your organization.  They earn more, they earn your respect and at this point they are now earning privileges outside of the rules/regulations you have set in place.

Pop quiz!  It’s 2:00pm and you’re at your desk.  The phone rings and your CSR buzzes you. An irate customer is on the phone demanding to talk to someone.   They feel “the tech never wanted to fix the problem. He was only interested in selling me a new unit.”

How did you know which tech it was before you picked up the phone?

There you have it – proof positive you are in the silent consent mode.  You know you have an issue and you’ve not addressed it. Maybe it’s training.  Maybe it’s a tech that just is a bad fit for your operation.   Either way, you know you have issues and you’ve taken no action.

So let’s address why we even have rules?

  1. Rules allow groups and individuals to work together.
  2. Rules establish the culture and values of an enterprise.
  3. Rules, while possibly restricting some individuals, allow for all to be treated fairly.
  4. Rules are actually liberating, in that all the team members know what to expect.
  5. Rules serve to protect all the employees.
  6. Rules when properly built, allow members to flourish and grow with equal opportunities.

So who’s in charge?   Who is responsible?  Are you running a clearing house for subcontractors or a business?  You may not even realize it at the time, but your silence to any infraction is 100{938cd9e8dae860e800efc538277d4f7684e6f6981618ba70d1c34357a53c2e1f} acceptance.   That’s right, you’re good with it.  It works for you.

So what’s at risk as a result of this “silent consent?”

  • Your best and most loyal employees will have been cheated and they will likely move on as soon as they can.
  •  No one will know where they stand now that you’ve employed “SITUATIONAL ETHICS”.
  • You will now always be in the catch-up, damage-control mode.  Your operation will be sloppy.
  • Your P&L and Net Promoter Score will be inconsistent at best.
  • Your growth and long-term success is in jeopardy.
  •  The respect of your employees is lost.
  • Your self-respect is lost.

How do you turn this corner and take corrective action?   

  1. You have to start with an employee handbook that is signed off by each employee in their file.  It should be introduced at a company-wide meeting and become part of your new employee orientation.
  2. The employee handbook should also spell out consequences for inappropriate activity.
  3. You’ll have to bring these offending employees in individually, identify the need for compliance, and seek their participation as role models in the business.   Make it clear that this is a zero tolerance compliance issue.
  4. As a side note, you may lose employees over this.   Accountability is tough.  At the end of the day, you’ll be stronger for it.   Keep your focus and resolve.
  5. You have to enlist everyone to help make this work…  Everyone is a compliance and safety champion.
  6. Safety is, and will remain a zero tolerance issue.  No exceptions for an employee’s safety, consumer safety, or propensity for property damage is acceptable.  This includes the flagging of all code compliance concerns.
  7. You have to be on your game.  Change your posture.  Be swift and fair in administering the rules.
  8. You have to set the pace.
  • You have to play by the same rules.
  • You have to be on time for meetings.
  • You have to be in business apparel.
  • You have to honor your obligations and commitments.


Here are a few great tips to expedite engagement of your staff:

# 1 Empowerment the opposite of micro-management.

Maybe it’s a leap of faith, but at the end of the day there is only so much of you to go around.  You have to give your people the tools to work with.  Give your staff the tools to make them champions in your business.  Here are two examples:

  • Give your CSR’s a dollar amount to solve consumer resolution issues, i.e. $150.00.   If a customer is complaining about a billing or missed maintenance, let them be a hero.  Stop the madness and make them a raving fan by discounting the invoice or offering another maintenance visit in the future at no charge.
  • Give your techs the ability to write off the diagnostic fee.  For example, a customer complains we should have caught this problem the first time.  The customer still ends up paying for repairs but is given an allowance.  This makes your tech a consumer advocate and allows a customer to know “you heard them” and saves the complaint phone call.

# 2 Prompt Engagement Not when you get around to it, RIGHT NOW!

There will never be a better time than now.  Maybe it’s an emotion-filled time where an employee is venting, maybe it will take a few minutes of precious time you didn’t plan on, but let’s get to the bottom of this now.  Here’s two examples:

  •  Take corrective action only 1:1 in private, i.e.  A CSR is lamenting what a problem a consumer is to other staff.  Take the time now to bring the CSR into your office, explain what you consider appropriate dialogue is, and seek their help to raise the bar to recognize your customers make paydays possible.  
  • Your tech fails to properly represent in writing of pending property damage issues on the consumer invoice.  For example, no float switch is present.  Bring the tech in for a 1:1 consultation, seek their help to raise the bar on a higher level of service you expect and our customers deserve. 
  • In all cases, (like those represented above), a written reprimand, signed off by the employee outlining the incident and required corrective action is added to the employee file.  Continued poor behaviors or a track record of other noncompliance can become signs for elevated actions. 

Success Academy’s Director of Technical Training, Dave Borowski, has 40+ years of experience as a Mechanical Contractor, Gas Master, trainer and instructor, during which he taught courses through our network of national operating centers, on line in the class room and at Pinellas Vocational Technical Institute.  Dave mentors our Direct Energy scholarship students at the Sarasota Technical College and assists in the day-to-day activities of the company-owned One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning operations in Florida. He received his BA in HVAC at PVTI and has served in numerous roles in our industry with his passion for excellence including hosting a live radio energy conservation/IAQ call-in show on 92.5 FM. 


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