All of us have done it at least once: we allowed our hearts to over-ride our better judgment and even direct evidence that someone who works for us isn’t working out. We fail to directly address the issues because we aren’t sure what the proper way to address them is, or perhaps we don’t want to embarrass the individual – or maybe we don’t want to face the problem ourselves. There is a not-so-fine line between providing a helping hand and enabling failure.
I had a conversation with a small business owner who wanted some insight on a previous employee. The owner shared that soon after employment this individual turned out to have several personal issues as well as health issues that affected both work performance and attendance. The owner on multiple occasions accommodated the employee’s personal problems for 3 years and at the peril of the business, until finally a very public incident occurred that resulted in the employee being unable to fulfill their job duties and so they were (finally) terminated. The owner wanted to know what they could have done differently. My first response was to say, “I am surprised that (the person) was employed that long, when you saw issues so early on. Were they addressed then? Was there a contract in place specifying expectations on attendance and work performance? Was each incident documented and discussed with the employee?” The answers, not surprisingly, were no – the most common response. One of the reasons small business owners struggle with the line between compassion and enabling is that we fail to provide clear expectations from day 1 and hold team members fully accountable to what they agreed to when they joined the team. We cannot hold someone accountable without clear expectations – a detailed employment contract does this. It is the guiding document for both employee and employer. When a team member goes above and beyond expectations it should be publicly honored and documented. When they fall short, it should be privately discussed with them and documented. When you hold people accountable, you give them both the opportunity to thrive and the safety net not to fail. If they chose to make multiple bad decisions, you now have the tools to remind yourself that sometimes your heart doesn’t have the right answer, and that’s ok. As a business owner you have to do what’s best for the team. That’s not always easy. Need help? Charlene@seamlesscoach.com