Nothing like back to back, out of town family visiting, with major dental work sandwiched in the middle, to knock the blog right out of me. Where did the month of June go? All in the name of summer fun!
I guess you might say it gave me time to reflect a bit about business related events happening around me. I was reminded of an employee who worked for our window cleaning company back in the mid 1990’s. He was a troubled fellow who had moved here from California with his mom. He sort of wore his problems on his sleeve, and would often complain about whatever was occurring in his life. For the most part, he completed his work regardless of his personal problems.
Once, after a long couple of hot days, he came into my office madder than a hornet, ready to jump on anyone who got in the way. I cannot remember what he was upset over, but he made it clear that it was my fault and our company was treating him badly. He quit and stormed out of the office without giving me any notice. I was frustrated, feeling somewhat deserted by a person who I had accommodated more than once when he needed help.
Then something very unusual took place. Within 10 minutes, he walked back in, looking like a sad little puppy. He did not want his job back because he knew he needed to make a change, but he wanted to apologize for taking his stuff out on me. He told me that he knew it was all about him, not me or my company. I will never forget that incident.
This young man wanted to take responsibility for his behavior. I don’t even think he thought of me in terms of a future reference. He just wanted to make things right. To this day, I have appreciated that more than he could possibly realize. I am sure it made me a better employer.
Because that same business is still family owned, I am aware when upsets occur. Only the faces have changed. The types of employee problems remain the same. In a small business, it is hard to always keep business and personal separate. Employees have bumps in the road that you end up knowing about, and because you care about them, it is hard not to be involved. Empathy is appropriate, but you also have to remember that the survival of the business itself has to come first or no one will have an income.
Recently, there was a similar upset that did not have the same ideal ending. Different lessons to be learned, I guess. Hopefully, the upset, and now terminated, employee will on some level want things to get repaired. Life will go forward, and somewhere in the future it will become obvious that when a change is needed, a smile and a handshake work best.
Another thank you to that honest window washer who needed a change. You showed me that no one has to be made the bad guy.