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Small Business Development Center

A common question we hear at the Small Business Development Center is, “How do I recruit and retain great employees?”

What we sometimes find lurking behind this question is a workplace impasse, dispute or just a simple disagreement that can cause a team member to question their future with an employer…or leave the employer wondering if they made a bad hiring decision.

With so many job opportunities in the market now, some workers choose to move on at the first sign of trouble. Such early exits can be costly to both the employer and the departing employee. And on the other side of the coin, if an employer does not choose to address the problem head-on they may find themselves keeping a team member that stays longer than they should.

Recently we met with Shelly who was struggling with a situation involving a newly hired team member and the rest or her team.

Shelly is a high performing business owner leading what seemed to be a well-functioning team that is guiding the company through a period of critical change.    Both she and the team spent many hours discussing an open position that needed to be filled and interviewing each candidate to assess if the new team member in question was a good fit for the job.  After reviewing company needs, job description and necessary skills, the decision was made, an offer was extended and the new team member was hired!

Unfortunately, after a just few months in her new role, it became clear that this new team member had over promised on a project and the team as a whole was not going to be able to meet a critical deadline. You can imagine some of the finger pointing that was going on behind the scenes.

Shelly knew something had to be done to remedy the situation and get all hands on deck, rowing in the right direction.

Fortunately for Shelly and her team, Shelly made the choice to seek outside help with this challenge from her trusted business advisor at the Small Business Development Center.

Shelly and her advisor worked together and devised three plans with anticipated favorable outcomes which Shelly then presented to her team as paths forward to consider.  By working with her adviser, Shelly discovered there were really two different aspects of the situation that she needed to address. 

The first issue was her confusion surrounding the project itself, something we decided to put aside until we addressed the bigger questions - Did Shelly, and the company, make a mistake in hiring this new person?   Was this really a good fit for the company, the individual in question and the team members she would be working with? Was the ‘problem’ with the new employee, the team, Shelly’s leadership…or a combination of all three?

In order to help Shelly find her way, we worked with her to develop an action plan.  As part of her plan, Shelly decided that she would ask her team to meet and discuss how things were going after an initial course correction, one of the three possible paths forward, was decided upon.

Shelly’s carefully planned conversations helped her better understand the impact of her management style and helped her reconsider her approach to leading her team.  She also truly listened to employees and left them with the feeling of being heard. Shelly also took the admirable step of telling all parties involved that she was sorry for letting things get to such a point of contention.

Shelly has committed to giving the new team member the opportunity to do better while at the same time restoring a sense of calm and order in the company.  Our hope is that Shelly, her team, and the new hire all continue to hold each other accountable.

There is an old saying that if you want to make things better you need to care enough to confront. However, most of us feel ill prepared for such difficult conversions and critical self-reflection.  Most of us are doing our best but sometimes we need the gift of being invited to be better.   I hope you will join me in challenging ourselves to do better in the coming year - to be better listeners, to seek feedback and truly hear the gifts we are being given.  To be brave enough to remember that it is a gift to ask for what we need, too.

Article written by CJ Seitz for Winter edition of Business Pulse Magazine

Post date: 201703