Recently, I was researching the subject of problem employees for a couple of my clients, and Googled the topic. In the first place, in this economy, I’m kind of amazed that employees are giving anyone problems, but that’s a topic for another time.
So I went online and Googled the topic. According to a recent blog article on Swift Capital’s website, one of the top five stressors for small business owners is having employees. There’s lots of information out there on various business blogs about how to deal with problem employees, too. For example: “Don’t try to solve the employee’s problem yourself or try to force your own solution on the employee — just gently push the employee toward finding their own personal solution”, or “it’s…part of our job to keep our employees motivated and happy so that they will continue to be a contributing part of our organization for the long term. And to do that well we have to know the employees as individuals, and to help them through some of the personal issues that interfere with their ability to do their best work.”
Now, I will be the first to admit that there have been times that I have needed some flexibility in work hours to deal with illness in the family, child care issues, etc. I have been fortunate to have bosses who offered me that flexibility. But I always tried to pay it back by producing above and beyond my expected duties to show my appreciation for the breaks I had been given.
However, as I talk to many frustrated employers nowadays, it seems that many employees have an attitude of entitlement, that for some reason they think they are owed something they haven’t even earned in terms of time off, wages and performance evaluations.
These are tough words from me. It is a lot easier to hire the right person in the first place than deal with the repercussions of hiring the wrong one.
So I’m beginning to think that the best solution is to improve your hiring (and firing) skills in the first place. Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, said, “Hire for attitude — train for skills.” Obviously when you’re hiring for certain jobs, you must have a certain skill set in your employees. But also looking for that good attitude can save you a lot of frustration in the future as you try to cope with an employee who at best doesn’t really care and at worst may be actively trying to sabotage your business.
So employers, if you’re finding yourself as frustrated with employees as some of my clients are, here are some wise words from three talented and successful women entrepreneurs:
Nell Merlino, founder of Count Me In for Women’s Success advises, “Hire slowly but fire quickly.”
Robin Wilson, CEO of Robin Wilson Home, a design company, said, “Employees should move your business forward, not make you lose focus—and if they are impeding your strategy due to their own agenda, then they should be warned once and reminded of the company goals. If they cannot do their job or meet their goals, fire them.”
And Barbara Corcoran, real estate expert and one of the stars of the reality show “Shark Tank,” advises, “Make sure you hire the right people. If you hire the wrong person, fire him or her.” She continued, “When I did bring in the wrong people, I fired them fast. I didn’t want the other employees to pay for my misjudgment.”
These are tough words from me. I was lucky to hire employees who believed in my business, and to have bosses who were able to work with me.
But it is a lot easier to hire the right person in the first place than deal with the repercussions and setbacks that come with hiring the wrong one.
Sarah O’Connell is a certified business advisor with the New York State Small Business Development Center at Jefferson Community College. She is a former small business owner and lifelong Northern New York resident. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears bi-monthly in NNY Business.