Home » Sharon Drew's Rants

A Difficult Employee Relationship

Submitted by on Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Am I the only person who has an employee that I love who is a ‘problem child?’ I’d love to start a discussion on this, as I suspect I’m not the only one. And truly – I don’t know what part of it is me. I’m sure a lot, and I’m very open to learning what I need to learn to make this work relationship work better. It’s killing me the way it is.

My tech guy is a lovely young man – a college student working his way through school by working with me. Truly, he’s lovely. Absolutely honest, conscientious, does what he says he’s going to do a high percentage of the time, works around the clock with me for those times that the extra mile is necessary, goes the extra mile very often and completes tasks in a very short time. We now speak the same language, he understands my models and thinking (not an easy feat), and values/respects my work. He even understands my Asperger issues and can compensate when that happens to me.

We’ve worked together for just over 3 years, and there are times we have a lot of fun together. I’ve given him bonuses and birthday presents, and have loaned him money. I trust him, and there are times I would like us to be working together forever.

But then there are his errors. He doesn’t mean to make them – he just either assumes answers without asking, or forgets what we’d agreed on, or doesn’t thoroughly check his work and leaves behind errors that I find when I’m with clients, or when I hand out business cards with the wrong data on them, or he forgets to bring the books to events. He doesn’t mean to do any of them. But his errors cost me money, business/reputation, and time. At this point, when he makes one of his errors, I am on a hair trigger response and I get mad. For quite a while I was patient, and worked him through choices, or took him to lunch to show him other ways to think things through. I taught him what he needed to know and how he needed to do things. Truly, I was patient for a long time. But the errors persist. They are sometimes different, but always involve the same sort of problem, mostly around him not checking things after hastily completing something.  And my talks with him, my Facilitative Questions, my pleas and badgering, don’t help. And the mistakes are frequent – one month, it was daily.

I’ve gotten wiley: now I keep a daily list of his errors, and I’m starting to charge him $5/error which I’m going to subtract from his pay. And I tell him each time something goes onto the list. To be fair, when he makes errors, he uses his own time to fix them, and often does a bunch of extra non-paid work to make up the time he’s cost us. But of course, that doesn’t make up the client relationships, or my expended time. And it doesn’t make up for my upset, my having to red0, make good, pay for errors, make nice to clients I’ve just looked foolish with (Telling them my tech guy got it wrong doesn’t cut it, does it?). And I have to check and recheck some of his work. Exhausting. In frustration, and thoughts of Behavior Mod, I just docked his pay nominally ($50), because I got a stomach ache thinking of paying him his full amount after a particularly error-filled, and costly, month.

Am I being fair? No idea. Am I being harsh? No idea. I love the guy. Truly I do. He’s fun to work with, and when the two of us get on a roll and are collaborating, we’re the best team in town. I get a creative thought and he puts it into technology for me. Together, we rule at those times. But new sorts of links to bring new business to my sites? “Oh. I’ve known about them for a while. I just didn’t know how to implement them better than what you told me.” Or, broken links on a new site? “I thought I tested everything. I guess I didn’t. Sorry.” Or a misuse of Google Adwords that cost me? “Oh. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do [and didn’t ask, find out, or tell me…]”

I don’t know the difference anymore between what I’m supposed to expect, what he’s supposed to do/know on his own, and what to just do myself. I realize he’s a college kid and I’m his first ‘real world’ experience. But it takes me so much time to pick up his pieces and check his work that I get annoyed – more so when it costs me real money rather than just time. Maybe I should just expect this unless I want to hire a highly paid ‘professional?

I suspect I’m just expecting too much from a kid. I know I’m teaching him ‘tons’ as he says. Maybe I’m just his teacher and I should be happy getting what I can that’s good, and disregard the rest and just pay the for his errors as the result of hiring a college kid? I’ve almost fired him, but he just shows up and keeps working – always on time, always puts in the hours necessary no matter day/night/weekends. And every once in a while, he has a really good, creative idea. He really, really means well. See my conundrum??

How are you all handling these sorts of ambiguous relationships? If you tell me it’s me, I’ll expect less. Or if you have some ideas, I’d love them. My greatest wish is that we’d continue working well together, with far fewer errors, and without having to check everything because I know the odds are good that it will be ok. Is this too much to ask??

sd

For those of you wishing to learn Buying Facilitation™ with me, I’ve just scheduled a public training [pdf] for May 19-21. I occasionally put these up on the site for those folks wanting to learn the whole model, with me teaching it. Unfortunately, I don’t actively solicit attendees, as there are only spots for a maximum of 18. If you have interest, and want to know more, either look on my other site www.newsalesparadigm.com under ‘events’ or call me at 512-457-0246.

Tags: , ,

  • http://www.tarathompson.es Tara Thompson

    Hi Sharon Drew

    First I would like to commend you on Buying Facilitation®. I’ve been cognizant for a long time that “identifying a need doesn’t close a sale” so I appreciate this method. I have used the Buying Facilitation® method on my daughter (our relationship is much better!!) and when attending job interviews. My questions are pretty much the same as those “high impact” questions for the hiring manager, but with a twist!:)

    I would like to give my opinion about your current situation with your employee. I am not in total agreement with deducting money for every error. In fact, I think this would be more detrimental to your business as I believe you are handing your tech guy a way out. In a way, it’s like a reward. He could subconsciously decide to let something “slide” due to his heavy work load, knowing that it may cost him $15 but compared to what else is going on, this is good value. However, in your situation, the three errors this amounted to, could cost you a pitch! I’ve seen what you charge for services on your web site and I believe you would lose out a lot more.

    I appreciate that you said you don’t have time to check everything, however, I think it would be important for you take accountability for some of the loss of business as you are in effect the tech guy’s manager. You would want to manage him to success without micro-managing. How?

    Here are my suggestions:

    1. The most important advice I’d like to give is not to go into a meeting, a pitch, etc. without looking at the materials first. If you’re aware of the areas of errors, it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to decide which areas of his work you will pay more attention to, until it improves. He may be a great guy but business is business!
    2. Ensure you have weekly one-on-one meetings with him, this way you’ll know what is on his agenda…not just professionally, but personally! It could be something in particular that is causing him to “fail” at certain times
    3. Give Feedback, I would use feedback for both positive and negative work. Employees feel more valued if they are appreciated for the good and advised of the bad, so they can correct it.
    a. (Feedback Script: when you get the Google ad words spot on, it increases traffic to our business, keep up the good work. When you make data errors on materials, it loses a lot of business and makes me look unprofessional, what can you do differently next time?)

    I believe you would get more from a highly paid professional, but it sounds as if you have a great relationship with your tech guy. His understanding of you and your Asperger Syndrome isn’t something that a highly paid salary could not buy. If you adjust your expectations of him, you may find yourself inspiring him to be more successful.
    Expect the errors, it’s part of business, but expect improvements, demand them from him. Invest a little more time on one-on-ones (half an hour a week) and regular feedback (positive and negative) and you should see a reduction in errors and a higher skill level in the areas he excels at.

    I hope my suggestions have been useful, please feel free to comment on them, or ask anything about what I’ve mentioned.

    On a side note, do you plan on holding a conference in Barcelona, Spain? I have many contacts in the event planning industry and I believe I would be able to raise awareness and interest in such an event. I would be happy to lend my time and expertise voluntarily to help organise this.

    Warm regards

    Tara Thompson
    Marketing & Communication Specialist
    Barcelona, Spain

  • johnschonegevel

    Sharon Drew

    You are to be applauded for sharing this with us. I am left wondering what your tech guy would say about the situation from his perspective.

    Here is my tentative hypothesis;

    You appear to be in a system with at least three major elements – you, your tech guy and the relationship between the two. Your current actions, however well meaning appear to be serving to maintain the less than optimal status quo. Might you consider that the essence of the relationship is that of Parent/Child?

    If I might suggest it; how about you stop doing what you are doing and try something else – perhaps do nothing, perhaps suggest to him that he writes his story (openly and honestly, as you have done) perhaps suggest he tells you what he thinks he wants and needs from this relationship. What does he think motivates him?

    I would be really interested in your follow up postings about this.

  • johnschonegevel

    Sharon Drew

    You are to be applauded for sharing this with us. I am left wondering what your tech guy would say about the situation from his perspective.

    Here is my tentative hypothesis;

    You appear to be in a system with at least three major elements – you, your tech guy and the relationship between the two. Your current actions, however well meaning appear to be serving to maintain the less than optimal status quo. Might you consider that the essence of the relationship is that of Parent/Child?

    If I might suggest it; how about you stop doing what you are doing and try something else – perhaps do nothing, perhaps suggest to him that he writes his story (openly and honestly, as you have done) perhaps suggest he tells you what he thinks he wants and needs from this relationship. What does he think motivates him?

    I would be really interested in your follow up postings about this.