In an office where open doors are the norm, it is important to remember that there are times to shut the doors and have private discussions between the partners before discussing those issues with the employees. Perhaps this seems obvious. But, there have been times where it has not been as obvious to us, because the issues were issues the 2 of us had experienced before, but the current batch of employees had not. Issues like last minute cancellations or new work requiring a reallocation of team resources are examples of things which have thrown employees “for a loop” and panic ensued. We had to learn that while we have experienced issues, and been adaptable to them, employees take longer to adjust to the changes.
Clearly, some issues are bigger than others and it is important for business partners to consider the impact of news, bad or good, on the employees in order to deliver the news in the best way. This could be about another employee’s termination, hiring someone new, or changes in work conditions, location, or other issues. It is hard to know how employees will respond and business partners need to be careful about causing undue stress or uncertainty in the workplace. It is far better to work out a plan between the partners or managers, before involving staff, even if their participation in the upcoming changes is required.
I have been in work environments where (bad) owners/managers scream where all can hear, “I’m going to do fire that person, close the company, or whatever.” Then, they simmer down, and act rationally; but the damage is done. Think before dropping a bomb, even if the bomb is a good thing. Though the latter is less often the type of uncertain issue employees find surprising, good surprises can also create problems in terms of unrealistic expectations which, when unmet, cause harm as well. An example of the latter, announcing “We’re going to give huge bonuses this year if we get this contract” then giving a bonus that doesn’t seem as “huge” as employees expect will cause problems. The point is: think and plan before opening the open door.
Our office is small, our staff are few in number, and our overall work environment is casual. These things being said, my partner and I have anything but a casual attitude toward our work, our business, and our clients. There have been some times when our employees mistake our small office atmosphere for a fun filled, friendly environment in which everyone has an equal say in what we do. This belief, of course, is unwarranted, in that my spouse/business partner and I are the owners of 100% of the company stock, which gives us 100% of the decision making power. We have had many situations involving problem employees that have involved our discussing the problem at hand in our home, before or after business hours, due to the fact that our office walls “have ears.” Once we have worked out a solution to the problem between ourselves, such that we have a united front, we face the task of handling the situation with the employee(s). Along these lines, my spouse/business partner and I certainly have disagreements over how some things should be handled, but we both believe it is crucial for us to work out our differences prior to bringing up the issue with our staff. The last thing we want to appear is having a conflict between ourselves caused by differing views in the disposition of an employee problem. My spouse/business partner and I also work out all of the details of positive work issues, including mundane things such as the location of this year’s holiday outing, well before we present these types of ideas to our staff. Over the years, we have been complimented by our staff for not bogging them down in the operation of the business, leaving them to perform their duties, such that we think we must be doing some things right!
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