I like to think that I'm pretty relaxed as a person and as a boss, although they do say that your own view of yourself is never the same as others have. People who know me socially think I'm pretty laid back whilst those I live and work with think that I should relax a little more often. The one thing that I do take seriously however is our obligation to clients and I think my demand (if that's not too harsh a word) is that we should never forget who is paying our wages and to achieve the best performance, standards etc we should have the highest standards ourselves.
We have two members of staff whose own work standards have been slipping for sometime now and yesterday afternoon I reached the point where enough was enough for one of them. I'm not talking about somebody straight out of college or Uni with only theoretical experience but somebody who has been employed by us for eight years. She is a valued member of the 'team' in fact without her I couldn't do my job most of the time although recently it's got to the stage where I think I could do my job better without her.
Anyway having reached the point of no return yesterday I decided, she was off yesterday on a days holiday, that this morning I'd get in bright and early and we'd have a chat about how things were or weren't going. We would have had this chat in January anyway as part of her annual review so bringing it forward a couple of months wasn't really a problem and I hoped it would give us the chance to work through the problems as I saw them and to exchange a few ideas. One of the golden rules of modern management is that you have to be constructive as well as critical and providing you've thought through what you want to say, what the problems are and what the possible solutions are, there shouldn't be a problem in saying what you think is going wrong. Of course you also have to bear in mind that anybody on the receiving end of any comments that are critical are going to go on the defensive, both in the sense that they will argue their case and also more tellingly in their body language.
The person is question generally gets into the office between 7:30 and 7:45 a.m so I arrived bright and early as close to 7:45 as was possible and guess what, yep, she doesn't show up till 8. Okay I wasn't looking for a fight but there was something briefly deflating about not being able to start straightaway. Anyway we got started soon after her arrival and I listed the various problems there had been over the past couple of months and asked her to be honest about whether or not she had a long term commitment to the practice so that I could then determine what the best solution was. Once we had established that she wasn't going to disappear in the near future we put together a plan of action, the whole thing took less than half an hour, involved some tears (hers) and some reassuring from me that she was a valued member of staff but that she was letting everybody down on current form.
One of the underlying problems, something I suspected but needed her to admit, was that about four years ago she was given a hefty salary increase on the understanding that her employment status would change as would her responsibility. I think over the intervening time she has realised that whilst she enjoys the extra cash (she got married two years ago and moved house last year) the change in career hasn't been what she had hoped for and she wants her old job back but with the same salary as she is on now. There are going to be some changes in the way the practice runs next year and her job is the one that is at the top of the review list, she's not going to lose her job but she might get her wish as far as her old job is concerned.