I’m too soft on staff. How can I regain control?


Dear Aunty B.


I have a similar issue to Chris S whose query was published yesterday (15 January) regarding an employee who could not take responsibility for deadlines.


I have an employee who takes advantage of smoke breaks – having up to seven on most days. She is a casual employee and takes a total of half an hour off her time in an eight hour day for breaks.


I know that I have to pay for two 10 minute breaks and I’m more than happy to do that. If every break took 10 minutes that would be 70 minutes in a day – however some breaks are 15 minutes, and a half hour for lunch.


I tackled her about it this morning and I am not popular at all. She claims that she would never take advantage of me and she’s extremely hurt that I would accuse her of doing such a thing and she ended up in tears.


I have put up with this for a very long time, but one of my new year’s resolutions was to have more control of my business.


I also know (because my spies tell me) that when I’m not in the office for the day she takes even more or longer breaks. What do I do?


Apart from that she’s a great customer service person and does a good job. I told her that I don’t really care how many smoke breaks she takes – I just don’t want to be paying for them. She still thinks that I’m being totally unfair.


Help!! It’s a very uncomfortable situation. She’s worked here for 10 years and I’ve also made the mistake of being too friendly.


Debbie, Brisbane




Hello Debbie,

Of course she is annoyed. It is very pleasant to take a long break from work every hour, turn off, go for a walk, have a chat and smoke a cigarette.


Very pleasant. And how dare you point it out!


Debbie, as you point out, you have become too friendly. But worse, you have become emotionally involved. The fact that your staff member feels it is appropriate to weep and sulk when addressed about a performance management issue means she knows which buttons to push.


In all small businesses, you get to know the staff. You want to help them get the mortgage money, celebrate the babies and be flexible and understanding when they need time off. But there is a line that the entrepreneur should not cross; you are ultimately not responsible for their lives. Nor are you a friend.


This is a big problem for some female entrepreneurs. Recently we did a survey and asked a large group of successful female entrepreneurs about one negative difference in the way women lead businesses when compared to men.


Some women objected to the “sexist question” and others replied that there were many positives in women being more empathetic, sympathetic and better communicators. But many replied that a major, and negative, difference in the way women lead is that they are too emotional, too friendly and staff take advantage of that.


Here are some of their comments:


  • Women tend to get more emotionally involved in things than men.
  • Too emotional especially when dealing with staff.
  • Too tolerant of staff.
  • Relationships matter too much. Not good on the tough stuff.
  • Don’t go for the throat as much as they should. Staff take advantage of their softer style of management.
  • More people-focused than profit-focused.
  • Women must learn to separate their emotional energies from their business energies.
  • Too inclusive; women inherently want to please everyone.
  • Lack of assertiveness in certain situations.
  • Often difficult to strike the right balance between being sympathetic to staff needs and tough on poor performance.
  • The sensitivity of women can often lead to being subjective rather than objective about situations that require an analytical, less compassionate approach than may be offered by a man.
  • Women often tend to avoid confrontation even when it is necessary.


Just remember, being a boss is not a popularity contest.

Stay tough.


Your Aunty B.

Aunty B - Your problems answered by SmartCompany's business bitch
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