There are no signs of people issues when you interview prospective employees. Interviewees are on their very best behaviour. They engage well. They usually dress well. They want to impress. You may learn more if you ask really good questions when you do reference checks. Even then you are speaking to people with whom the applicant has a good relationship, so you are only going to hear good things. New employees are rarely as good as they paint themselves to be at interview. So I guess a good guide should be that if they do not impress at interview, do not hire them.
To minimise people issues you need to build healthy culture and create a powerful on-boarding process for new employees. The optimum time to train and set guidelines for a new employee is in the first 4 – 6 weeks. If you do not have a strong healthy culture and a thorough on-boarding process, then people will find their own level in the way they handle themselves while they work for you. Business owners need to know that you get the culture that you build or that you allow. Healthy culture does not happen by magic or wishful thinking.
5 major people issues that cause headaches for every small business owner
1. The Affirmation Seeker – this person usually has a good work ethic but it comes with strings attached. They need lots of affirmation. They like to show you what they have done, both large and small tasks, often several times each day. If they do not get affirmation they can struggle with their motivation to work. This can work in your favour, if you are happy to be relating and giving affirmation to someone all day long. Most busy small business owners want their staff members to work more independently with less neediness. This person is a bit insecure and needs constant approval. They are a high maintenance employee.
2. The People Person – this person is fantastic at working with people. They are well suited to customer service. They can engage people well whether in person or on the phone. They can often handle several people at once, without getting too stressed. They love people; the more the merrier. However, almost always this kind of person is not as good with details as they are with people. They are not naturally systematic and they forget things. They will miss details and not follow through. If their role requires them to do administration or other detailed work, they will often not get it done, or do it in haste. They will always be more motivated to respond to people than to tasks, especially detailed tasks. They are great at customer service and often poor at administration. Partly this is a personality issue, and will not change. The answers lie in releasing them to do the customer service work, and helping them be accountable to systems that force them to do the essential details of their role.
3. The Quiet Person – This person does not talk much. They do their job, usually adequately, but nothing more. They are withdrawn and difficult to engage in a real conversation other than about work function. They prefer to work alone. It is difficult to motivate them or get any sense that they are really ‘with you’ in the business. They will sit in team meetings and never say anything, unless you ask them a direct question. They ask minimal questions, preferring to do research and work things out themselves. They do not seem to understand what it means to be part of a team. This type of person can work well for you if there are tasks to be done that require someone to work alone and be consistent. You need to help them build relationship within the team or they will remain a bit of a loner.
4. The Bossy Person – This person likes to get tasks completed but often wants to involve others on the team to assist them. They are quite directive and even ‘bossy’ and seem to be unaware of the negative affect they can have on other team members. In their mind they just want to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Their bluntness and directness can be disconcerting to other team members. They will tend to exceed their authority. They can be useful to your business if they are willing to receive feedback and become much more self-aware.
5. When two people do not get on – there are many reasons why people do not get on. People can just misread the other, take an instant dislike to another, or make quick judgements about the other. Others may have an argument that is not resolved properly so the tension lingers. Some disrespect inexperience or people who make mistakes. Others try to help and get rebuffed and then take offence. The causes of conflict are many. This can be a headache for small business owners. They are busy working in their business, and trying to grow their business, and now they have people problems with those they have hired. Instead of helping lighten the load they are creating a whole new set of issues.
There are plenty of other people issues that are not covered in this article; such as:
- People turning up late, calling in sick, continually distracted by their home life, limiting their capacity to work
- People who constantly need instructions – who will not take initiative – question whether they are dumb or whether they are simply afraid of making mistakes.
- People who do not like correction – they get upset or take it personally, no matter how gentle you are in training them. They certainly do not invite correction.
What are the people issues that you find the most difficult to handle?