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How to get someone to work

(18 Posts)
quinne Fri 29-Aug-08 08:03:31

Nothing to do with marriage but it is a relationship, so hopefully someone can offer some good advice.

DH and I run a small business which is in a recession so is even smaller than it was – we employ just two people now whereas before we had seven. One of the two left in May and her replacement joined the next week. She is bright, bubbly and go-getting, plus quite assertive as I found out when she started to try to renegotiate her terms and conditions two weeks into the job! When she started she was really hardworking and consequently got a lot done. She had a trial of two months and passed with flying colours. Then she still worked hard with good progress for another month before going on holiday. However for the last three weeks she has been doing very little and if we give her anything a bit more complicated to do, she avoids it and tries to pass it back to us to do ourselves.

Last night I went to upgrade some software on her PC and when I loaded up her internet browser, I saw that she’s been spending a lot of time on her private email account and in job hunting websites.

I like her, I think she likes us too (as much as anyone likes their boss) and I believe she has the makings of a good employee. So I don’t want the relationship to end, not least because good people are hard to find, but I can’t afford to pay her to sit at her desk doing personal stuff and I need to rely on her to do what I ask rather than not know whether my requests will be ignored or pushed back or actually done.

The problem is we are going on holiday tomorrow and I need to be able to rely on both of our employees while I am away. Its not fair to ask the other woman to supervise so I need this new employee to be self-motivated. Should I speak to her and if so what should I say so that I repair the problem rather than make it worse?

This is her first job by the way (she had a baby straight after leaving college).

quinne Fri 29-Aug-08 08:07:13

and another problem is that I had promised her that she could be the lead on a project for a client and if she leaves before its done then we will have problems with the client and it will cost us money to resolve them. The client is coming into the office in an hour to sign the papers and then we will really need her for the next six weeks.

People here typically give less than a week's notice even thought the contract say one month.

Anna8888 Fri 29-Aug-08 08:10:17

If this is her first job, you will need to manage and coach her very closely if you are to develop her into an autonomous worker.

It sounds a bit odd to me to promise someone so green the lead position on a client project, and to want to leave them while you go on holiday.

quinne Fri 29-Aug-08 08:20:51

It is odd but she nagged for it and then the client delayed and delayed until finally it collided with our holiday. If I take it away from her now though it sends out all the wrong messages so her colleague is going to have to help/ guide.

Anna8888 Fri 29-Aug-08 08:23:05

Don't worry about that one short-term message. Worry about:

(1) your business
(2) your employee's long-term development

Tell her you made a mistake. Tell her you will give her proper training yourself on how to manage a client project when you return from holiday. Give her more experienced colleague the lead on this project.

ilovemydog Fri 29-Aug-08 08:27:28

Agree with Anna.

But perhaps when you get back from holiday you can ask her why she's been looking for another job? You weren't invading her privacy by the way, and installing software is a reasonable thing to do...

BecauseImWorthIt Fri 29-Aug-08 08:31:53

It's interesting that you've posted this in relationships - and that's exactly what your problem is!

You are an employer, not her friend. Strip the emotions out of the equation and then deal with things appropriately.

Give the other woman the lead on this project, and then tell the new employee exactly what your concerns are about her performance.

As an employer you should be doing this anyway. It can be very demoralising not having anyone commenting on your performance - good or bad.

In my first job I was so badly managed I literally had no idea when it came to my review if I was going to be fired or promoted. It doesn't do much for your self esteem.

You have a business to run, and a business which is already being affected by the recession. YOu have to, therefore, run it as efficiently and effectively as you can, and dithering about this woman is not going to help you.

Be tough. (But be fair)

tigermoth Fri 29-Aug-08 08:46:55

How closely do you monitor her work? Can you hold a one to one meeting with her to go through exactly what you want her to do while you are away? And also prioritise the tasks. Get her agreement, talk through any problems (and hold the meeting a few days before you go so she has time to come back to you if she wants to go over anything). Send the list of works to her in an email, copying in your dh and your other employee. I agree that she may bedemotivated because she is not sure what she is meant to be doing, or what standards you expect. I think this is very common when one starts a new job.

Does she have any idea that you used to employ 7 people and your business in in a recession? I'd have thought that knowledger would have made her realise that you need her to work hard.

BeachBunni Fri 29-Aug-08 08:54:12

Have a one-to-one as tigermoth says and set her a personal development plan. Give her certain responsiblities so number one you can check and see what work she has done in your absence and two she may feel valued that you are giving her that responsiblity. Feedback is the key.

quinne Fri 29-Aug-08 09:08:52

She knows we are in a recession and I think that is one of the problems. Things have actually dipped more since she arrived and she was looking forward to being kept busy with clients not improving presentations etc in preparation for when clients appear.

I don't sit and watch what she does but there are only four of us and its one large room so its not as though I don't know what is going on.
I do give her feedback too. Until last month it was all praise with just bits of "better to do it this way" here and there. Last week though I found three things she had not done which she should have and I spoke to her about one of them. That's what I mean about her being in a first job because she reacted in a very bad way (irritated and defensive) even though I was fairly gentle. Any one who works for any length of time knows that this is not an effective way to stay in the boss's good books.

When we started out we were guilty of trying to make our employees our friends but not now. With only four of us, there is a level of intimacy but we make sure to keep our distance basically so that we can make hard decisions - like sacking someone for incompetence - without the embarrassment of being their friend too (we learned this the hard way). Also being their best friend doesn't earn you respect, you need to stay aloof.

It is a relationship but a business one not a personal one. So I'm not worried about her feelings for her own sake but I am worried about what will happen to my business is she walks out. We've invested time and money training her and I do no want to start over. No one is ever anything but just more work for existing employees in the first weeks. So I have to consider her feelings but only as a means to an end.

Has anyone ever been slacking at work/ demotivated etc and after a chat with your boss felt rejuvenated?

tigermoth Fri 29-Aug-08 09:15:49

I definitely think that the right sort of chat with a boss can re-motivate you. As long as you go away with a clear idea of what you have to do.

On a practical level, can you set some limit on how much time people spend on non-work related emails and websites? You could hold a meeting with both staff to review your company internet use policy, not naming names, but just making them aware you are monitoring it from time to time.

quinne Fri 29-Aug-08 09:26:34

Have the chat before I go on holiday or wait until I come back so that if it does not go well I have a chance to put things right?

BTW I think we have been more than fair with her. She asked for increased hours and we gave them to her even though we may end up having to top her wages from our savings. And the reason we are taking our holiday now and not in July at we had planned is because she said her husband had booked those weeks at his work so we changed our plans to accommodate her.

Where I live the culture is that the boss is always to be despised and we have to put up with that. However we try to be fair and treat people as we ourselves would wish to be treated (albeit I am still smarting from the extra hours, but at least they are only a trial - which is due to begin next week).

BecauseImWorthIt Fri 29-Aug-08 09:28:24

Definitely before you go away, and give her a clear list of what has to be done/achieved during tha time.

I think you're being too soft on this woman actually and you're letting her call too many of the shots. Why are you doing that? What is your concern/worry? If you say no to her, what do you worry will happen?

quinne Fri 29-Aug-08 10:32:13

I just spoke to her. She rushed to assure me that she's not looking for a job etc just being called by an agency who was helping her job hunt earlier this year. Do I believe her? No. Anyway I've marked her card now so she knows what i need from her. The list of jobs will come later today but right now I am running around like a blue-arsed fly trying to tie up loose ends, give instructions and deal with the children who keep breaking free of the nanny and running next door to the office to ask me if they should pack the kitchen sink.

Why I am so soft on her? She is only 24 and it is her first job, so I am making allowances. But mainly I try to treat people as I would wish to be treated (until they cross me of course!).

I'm British but we are ex-pats and their is a culture barrier when dealing with local people. I thought I was offering an English level of civilised management so I am a bit surprised to read that I'm soft! Maybe I am in which case I will toughen up immediately because local employers treat their staff like dogs, which would have them at employment tribunals in the UK, so there is some scope for hardening up even if I could not stomach the local approach.

BecauseImWorthIt Fri 29-Aug-08 12:51:59

I think you're being too nice! Which may translate into being soft - not suggesting you suddenly try and turn into a dragon or Alan Sugar, though!

(and it's very easy to say it from the safety of behind my laptop, I quite appreciate that it's difficult in reality)

prettyfly1 Fri 29-Aug-08 16:27:14

I think that perhaps putting a mentoring programme in place, with possible rewards or the promise of career development for acheiving targets might help. Do you do one to ones? Time once a fortnight or a week to talk through any concerns she might be having could be a good idea. Take the initiative. But if she is looking for other roles i cetainly wouldnt trust her wtih client management.

quinne Fri 29-Aug-08 17:06:08

One to ones? No we don't do them. I chat to them both each day usually and they tell me what is going on. Usually they don't hold back about letting me know when something is wrong. I think that's a cultural thing because we've employed nearly 20 people here and all but one of them was very good a saying what they need to make them happy!

Looking back on what i wrote above and the replies has helped clarify my thoughts though. Last night was not really thinking in terms of gettign rid of her but more in terms of how to make it work but now I am wondering if it would not better to just start over again rather than try to make something of this one? hmmm..

tigermoth Sat 30-Aug-08 11:28:12

tbh, from what you have written, it sounds like your present employee is pretty ok but just needs managing more closely. You say it is difficult to recruit good people.

When you talk to your staff each day, do you do it privately as you would if it was a one-to-one?

IME it is easier to get a handle on what your empolyee is doing and guide her more closely, if she is free to talk to your and visa versa without others overhearing.

FWIW, I am advising you from the perspective an employee whose manager does this - he is very good at this aspect of managing and motivating staff.

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