Recruit for success. Deal with the consequences

Keeping and managing a happy crew is a tough gig when you’re running your own business.

In time, as you get bigger, maybe you’ll be able to have full-time staff to handle the everyday ups and downs of what needs to be done, but, for now, all the hiring, onboarding, cajoling and firing is down to you.

This isn’t such a bad thing and the reason is that, although it can be incredibly time consuming and energy sapping, learning how to manage staff is a fundamental core competency when running a business. It’s far better that you learn and understand it now as you grow, as this way you can be clear about what’s expected later when you eventually hand it off.

People are your business

Grappling with resources and managing staff issues are right up there alongside cashflow as the most stressful aspects of running a business and it’s easy to see why. In most cases, your people are your business, and they’re the ones that represent everything about you to your customers and the outside world.

But your staff don’t just demonstrate what’s good or bad about your business on the outside; they do it just the same way on the inside too, and it’s very important for you to recognise this.

If you want to build a successful business, where you have a diverse, open minded and (generally) happy workforce, it’s something that you’ll need to work hard at from day one, and, you need to set the ground rules very early on for what is acceptable, and what isn’t.

This might sound a bit grandiose and formal but believe me it isn’t.

Handling the exceptions

Let me give you some examples;

Your top salesperson (2 years in a row) displays outwardly sexist and/or bias behaviour to sales support team members and insists on being treated differently to others because of their performance. Everything is a loose end with them and follow up administration is non-existent. The word ‘diva’ springs to mind.

One of your Team Leaders spends most of their time being passive-aggressive, has a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude to subordinates and quite often has people in tears due to their confrontational nature and their preference to dress people down in public.

Both of these staff members ‘get things done’. They are high performers and work hard in their respective positions.

Clearly, over time, other staff members can get extremely frustrated and irritated by this type of behaviour. Enough for them to report it to you. What should you do?

I’ve sat in meetings discussing these situations with owners and they are often clouded in denial, obfuscation and a convenient lack of belief. ‘I know he/she can be a bit of a pain, but they do a great job and we can’t afford to upset them’. Upset them??

The fact of the matter is this; if you don’t properly manage the poor behaviour on display here, then you are condoning it, and are just as responsible.

Owners often conflate performance with behaviour and have a hard time differentiating between the two. This can give a ‘free reign’ to employees who demonstrate poor behaviour to consider it acceptable, and thus re-enforced as ok. But it’s not ok. Not at all.

Behaviour matters

Think about it from the perspective of the other employees watching on as this occurs.  This, in no way, displays a willingness on behalf of the business to make appropriate behaviour an equally important function alongside just performance alone. Over time this will absolutely and undoubtedly result in good staff leaving, and this is a bad thing.

However, if you turn the situation on its head, you can have a very positive opposite effect.

Bad behaviour is bad behaviour, not matter how you look at it. It’s pretty easy to recognise. If you set the expectations for behaviour internally on day one, then you can always point to an acceptable level at any time in the future. And if, after fair warning, existing employees choose not to follow this protocol, then they have to leave the business, irrespective of their performance. It’s that simple.

This level of integrity and objectivity can work wonders for your business, both short and long term. Ultimately firing an employee for poor behaviour (particularly if they happen to be a high performer) will not only show other employees that have ‘borderline’ behavioural issues what the consequences may be under these circumstances but, much more importantly, it will clearly demonstrate to the rest of your employees what’s important to you as an owner.

I have, in the past, unfortunately had to remove people under similar circumstances from my business. The results were amazing. The respect it generated for ownership had to be seen to be believed. And, guess what, we replaced this person with an individual who was just as capable, but without the painful baggage.

So, managing staff is hard enough without both you and your team having to put up with a bad apple, no matter how high their performance is. There’s just no room for it.

Be objective and be decisive, and you will be acting in the best long-term interests of the business and everyone in it. It’s not easy to do the right thing, but no one ever said it would be!


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