The Small Business Owner Challenge: Keeping Your Eye on the Bottom Line While Dealing with “High Drama” Employees
Most business owners have to watch their P&L’s like a hawk, especially in this tough economy. The problem is, many business owners are too busy dealing with “problem child” employees and petty workplace drama.
Every workplace has a few “Betty Crocker” employees-the ones who like to “stir the pot.” A great place to see this in action is at your local doctor’s office. The busy doc desperately wants to get back to see his patient in Exam Room 2…when one of the high drama staff members “gets into it” with a co-worker and pulls the doc in to referee. The doc just sighs and thinks, “If only I could just do my job and not have to deal with these employee issues…”
Well, avoiding employee issues would be utopia for most business owners. However, the reality is that running a business with employees requires balancing a focus on passion, profit, and people.
Most business owners get into business because of the passion and the profit part, not necessarily the people part. For example, doctors get into business because they’re passionate about practicing medicine. Chefs open restaurants because they’re passionate about cooking. And, hair stylists open salons because they’re passionate about beauty. The reality is that business owners, and the managers who work for them, frequently spend too much time doing and not enough time leading.
Too much time is spent on accomplishing tasks, often because of poor delegation skills, and people issues tend to get put on the back burner or avoided altogether. Typically, business owners and managers tend to put off people issues until they HAVE to intervene… This is called the passive-aggressive approach, only jumping in to handle employee issues when the situation becomes intolerable. A good example of this is when the boss “blows a gasket” and barks out at employees, sometimes in front of customers. Not good.
When business owners spend too much time doing (seeing patients, cooking, or cutting hair) and fail to demonstrate good leadership by giving clear direction and confronting difficult employees, the work environment continues to deteriorate. The reason? The other employees get tired of dealing with the high drama employee’s behavior, especially if they’ve tried to handle him/her on their own. So, they complain to the owner, and on and on the workplace drama goes.
So how do business owners balance their focus on the bottom line–and handle employee drama? It starts with improving leadership skills. Business owners first need to learn how to set clear, measurable goals for the business and translate those goals into daily tasks for their managers and employees. Employees need to know what behavior is expected of them everyday and what individual accomplishments they must make to help the owner achieve the bigger picture, company goals.
In other words, owners need to engage employees by giving them a purpose for their work. Employees need to understand and share a similar passion about accomplishing business goals-including why it’s important to increase the bottom line. Why? Because, it’s tough for business owners to make a profit if they’re the only ones who are passionate about making that happen.
Also, business owners need to hold employees accountable who are demonstrating behavior that is detrimental to the business or are performing below expectations. Owners need to sit down with them, giving specifics about what they need to do to correct their behavior and/or improve their performance. Because, the old saying is true: it takes one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch.
Below is a simple technique for giving employees constructive feedback to improve their behavior and performance. This should be prepared, ahead of time, by jotting down notes of specific behavioral examples and/or examples of poor performance. Also, the meeting with the employee must be held in a private area, out of earshot of other employees.
Prior to meeting with an employee, jot down:
Ø What did the difficult employee say or do that failed to meet expectations, or created a problem in the workplace?
Ø What does he/she need to do, specifically, to change behavior or performance?
Ø By when does he/she need to change behavior or performance?
Ø What are the Consequences if behavior isn’t changed or performance improved?
By giving the employee specific examples of poor behavior or performance, business owners focus on the problem-not on the person. It lessens defensiveness and focuses on action steps for improvement. However, keep in mind that if after using the technique an employee is still demonstrating poor behavior or is performing below expectations -it is then time for more serious disciplinary steps.
Like it or not, business owners have to learn how to be good leaders. This means learning how to set employee performance expectations, how to recognize and reward employees-and it means learning how to handle conflict. Remember, running a business with employees requires balancing a focus on passion, profit, and people.”
Natalie Ivey, President & CEO
Results Performance Consulting, Inc.
Boca Raton, Florida
Natalie Ivey is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), and has more than twenty years of leadership and HR experience with Fortune 500 organizations. Her firm provides a wide array of human resources seminars in Florida and throughout the U.S. and also provides HR consulting and employee training, especially in dealing with problem employees. (www.rpchr.com) Ms. Ivey can be reached at (561) 208-6480.