Employee trouble in paradise…


As you know I own a fairly large restoration company that also does a lot of regular commercial accounts. (Contract commercial greatly helps with our cash flow.)  Business is great, we are constantly bringing in new accounts and the money keeps rolling in.  (I never dreamed that I would become rich from this business but I am!)

So life should be good.  But it isn’t.  You see, Steve, I have an ongoing issue in our corporate office.  We have about 25 employees that handle all our scheduling, logistics and paperwork. All of these positions are much needed and our employees all do good work.

The problem is my staff is constantly in “competition” with each other! (Most of my office employees are women.) The list is endless!  One thinking that the other is not answering enough calls or gets paid too much or takes too long a lunch break or is hitting on the boss or well … the list goes on and on but it seems to always be something!

Then I have one key employee that has been with my company for 16 years now and makes really good money.  (And more than deserves this salary.)  She is sort of my “go-to” person. But now everybody seems to have a problem with her.

So Steve, can you think of anything like team building or unity exercises or something I can do to fix this problem? And can you think of anything that my “go-to” employee can do or a task she be given to be seen in a positive light to the rest of my company?

All this is a constant battle that I am not smart enough to fix. (I’m smart enough to BUILD the company, Steve.  I just can’t keep PEACE in what I’ve built!)  I am sorry for all the questions but I really need some help. Thank you so much.

Almost Ill in Illinois

First, Almost, as a SFS graduate you need never apologize when asking for help.  The whole reason Jon-Don created SFS was to make our “Partners for Success” philosophy a reality.  When our customers become more successful then they take Jon-Don along for the ride!  Let us help!

So Bill and I noodled things around.  (The two of us sort of share the “Human Resources Hat” in SFS.) Now bear in mind we don’t have all the details nor do we know the issues, etc.  So take this stuff for what it is worth.

1.  My main question on any consulting I do is to ask “why”?  (Well, duh!)  So WHY is there so much disunity/ competition/ back-biting, etc?  One simple answer might be, are your employees “busy enough”?  When people have idle time…  (I know that might appear to be a cop out but still it is a valid question.)

2.  Team building is a great idea. For example, since there are 25 employees in your office try organizing them into five teams of five and have them work towards a goal, for instance, how many calls each team can take. Then at least those five teams should start working together as a group and see the other employees on their team as allies. Give incentives to each team that does well, then next quarter, mix the teams up so your workers are now on new teams and then try the competition again.

Or if that isn’t practical divide them into groups based on jobs (for example a phone answering team, an accounts receivables team, etc) and then once again reward them as a group.  It doesn’t have to always be money either. For example, check out this QuickTIP on how to reward employees.

3.  Re: your employee (I’ll call her “Sally”) that everyone resents and picks on once again my question is “why”?  But honestly, sometimes instead of trying to fix a longstanding problem it may be better to detour it.  For example, could you give Sally a “lateral promotion”? Would her personality work as an outside sales person? (Be sure to use Chuck’s SFS Sales Management forms to add accountability.) Or could you bump her out of the group by making her an “Executive Assistant” to you or another manager?

4.  And finally, don’t forget “communication” as in simply talking to all these folks.  Maybe they feel as if they are being treated solely as just unimportant “admins”. (I have no idea what their positions are but I’m assuming administrative.) Now if you start treating your office staff as valuable members of the company they will start working harder and take pride in their jobs. Assign them different tasks that are theirs alone so that they can feel as if they are working towards something. (Remember in SFS we talk about how everyone wants to “own the turf” of their job.)

And one caution, Almost.  I know you are a “good old boy” and feel that being “chivalrous” is a good thing. But remember to offer compliments to your women employees ONLY on their job performance and NEVER about their personal appearance (this can increase personal competition) and treat them all the same. I would even be careful re: being alone with one woman.  For example, during the evaluation/interview I suggest above to find out WHY there are problems you might want to have another manager (maybe even your wife?) sit in.  You just can’t be too careful anymore!

Let me know how things work out.


PS  And finally, Almost, if you can identify one or two “troublemakers” firing people can actually improve morale! (After working with them to improve first.)

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