Maybe you are a “nice” person. Maybe not. I don’t know.
What I do know is what I read and hear—far too many women lawyers and other women bosses discussing whether they should reprimand (or fire) this employee or that for clearly unprofessional behavior.
Examples: Employees who don’t show up to work on time, or even at all in some cases. Independent contractors who don’t do the work according to the contract. Gossipers who loiter at other employees’ desks and waste not only their time by other people’s billable time. Thieves who steal stamps and other office supplies. Paralegals, legal assistants and associates who are supposed to be covering while the firm owner is out on leave, but instead see that as an opportunity to take a bit of mini-vacay themselves. The stories are seemingly endless.
What’s striking is a) not only how frequently these stories pop up in social discourse among women business owners, but b) how many women question whether they should fire these loafers and leaches.
Their stories all start the same: “I like my [insert title of employee] but she… [insert long story about list of offenses] and end with… “I don’t know what to do?”
What is going on here?!
The answer I hear most often: “I don’t know? I guess I’m just too nice,” (she says, meekly.)
Nah, that ain’t it. I’ve seen you in court, sister.
You see, I don’t think it’s about niceness at all. Consider for a moment the reason you are not firing that woman who is stealing your time (which is money) and/or your actual money is because you are scared.
You are afraid that if you fire her you will have to:
- Deal with the consequences of firing her, and you are tired, exhausted and already feeling overworked and overwhelmed. That’ll just add one more problem to your already big pile of problems.
- Be confrontational, and you hate that. It’s bad enough you have to do that all day, every day with other attorneys, with clients, and in court. You don’t want to do it with your employees or at home. Can’t everybody just get along and do their job?
- Be the boss. You’d rather be everybody’s friend. Especially this person because she’s been with you for a while now. She was the first employee you hired. (Or the second. Or the first in this position. Or the first in this new office. Or…you get the idea.)
- Take the time to create a new ad (ugh, who likes to write ads?), go through the interviewing and hiring process (you hate that more than you did when you were interviewing for jobs yourself way back when) and what if you make a mistake and hire the wrong person again. In fact, you feel like you are starting to get a reputation for your high turnover rate. Pretty soon, no one is going to want to come work for you because they are going to think you must be difficult to
- Deal with crying when you fire her. You hate dealing with crying. You might cry yourself. That’s going to suck even worse. Maybe you’ll just put it off another day. Or even until next week…
But maybe the trouble is you are too nice. Let’s go with that. You think about how much she needs this job. I mean, she did just have a baby a few months ago. Her marriage is rocky, and her mother is moving here to live with her soon to help with the baby. Maybe you just need to talk with her again about her excessive tardiness and personal phone calls during work hours. Yes, you’ve already mentioned it to her, but you know how hard it is with a new baby. And you don’t want everyone to think you are the “B” word, heaven-forbid.
There’s just one problem: It’s not your job to be “nice.”
As the owner of the firm, as the boss, your number one responsibility is to ensure the business is profitable for the benefit of the shareholders (if you are the only shareholder, then that is you as the owner, and your family), and all others who rely on the health of the business (i.e., the other employees and their families). You do not owe a duty to one person (that one employee); you owe a duty to the collective.
This is where policies and procedures are your savior, whether you have one employee, five, 10 or 100. One of the first policies you should create and provide to all new hires is a policy for termination for non-performance and/or violation of company policies. Some of the questions to consider in preparing your policy: How many times will you warn before you terminate? What will be included in the list of offenses? What will be the procedure for warning? What offenses will result in immediate termination without warning?
Create your policy and follow it to the letter with each employee. “Like” has nothing to do with it. “Nice” has nothing to do with it.” The “B” word has nothing to do with it.
The only word we need to worry about when we govern our business with written policies, processes and procedures is “professionalism.” The best way to set the clear, professionalism expectation for our employees is to model it. When we arm ourselves with systems built on professional ethics, rules and behaviors, and conduct ourselves accordingly, we really have nothing to fear. If you would like help to create these types of systems for your business, let’s chat.Schedule a conversation with me now.
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