Dear Aunty B,
I am a manufacturer, exporting globally and my company has grown fast for a decade. But I am finding staff increasingly hard to find. Four years ago I was desperate and hired a bloke when my instincts told me not to.
This fellow told me that business owners are a privileged lot and that basically they owe workers a living. Since then there has been a slow change in my company’s culture: employees are arriving late and there is a core group that have started to muck around and upset the morale of the other staff.
I tried having talks, setting stiff targets and recently giving warnings. But their attitude is that the job is being done, so what’s the worry? As I got told the other day: My expectations are too high!
Now I feel so angry I want to put expansion plans on the back burner, fire a third of the workforce and rebuild.
Dear Fed Up,
First mistake: you should have sacked the troublemaker four years ago – or better still, never have hired him.
Second mistake: how on earth have you let things get so bad? This has gone on for four years! No wonder you sound so angry and cross, you poor thing.
Even if you sack the ringleaders you might find yourself in a similar position because you have not addressed an underlying problem which is this: you, my friend, have basic leadership issues.
Sacking a third of your workforce seems drastic, an overreaction and how about the cost! I don’t know how many workers you have but I would only sack the ringleaders and give the groupies warnings.
Introduce time clocks and software monitoring systems if you haven’t already got them. Increase the penalties for those coming in late or dismiss them. As for those who do the right thing, now is the time for good rewards.
Increase bonuses and other rewards and regularly check in with these key people to ensure they are on board and helping you set the culture.
Now for your leadership skills. First you need to look at your hiring practices. Applicants need better background checks and attitude checks. Recruitment needs to be outsourced to experts as it is certainly not one of your key skills.
You also sound like you need some morale boost. How about joining an entrepreneurs’ association such as The Executive Connection or Entrepreneurs Organisation? This would develop your leadership skills and give you a sense that you are not alone. It would also give you the confidence to act early on problems so they don’t become malignant and force you into drastic action.
So keep a cool head and good luck!