Jaw Drop

The Good Enough, The Bad and The Ugly Behavior - 14

Today’s Scene: The Bad

Today, as we jump back in to our weekly blog posts, we are pulling from a story directly from my own experiences. Yep, today I am (or was) the “bad” Boss in this story! I was in management for other companies over 20 years before I started my own company.  During that time, I was always in a role of hiring, training, managing and firing regardless of what other responsibilities I had for the business. 

One principle I did learn the value of very early in my career was to make sure the team had what they needed and were respectful, even happy, to work together. This may not be the only valuable principle when building teams but this was the motivator for the scene. 

Do you know the adage, “One bad apple spoils the barrel’? The idea that if one team member is breaking rules or behaving badly, it will create tensions, grumblings and more bad behaviors by others. The worst-case results end with your BEST people walking out the door. This is NOT what I want to see happen for any of you or any of my teams! Practicing what I preach, I was on a second meeting and formal written warning with a staffer. Watch for the comment that blind-sided me.


As Employee X entered, I asked her to shut the door and sit down. Suspecting the issue at hand, she was quick to explain how “this afternoon” she was already planned to get her office and desk organized.  She had “already cleared my calendar to do it. Ok?” She ended thinking that was all that needed to be discussed and was ready to get up and get back to work.

The issues at hand, before such a thing as a “CRM” (Client Relationship Management software) and a “PM” (Project Management Software) located on the easily shared and easily accessible internet, we worked with paper and folders kiddos. I know…dark ages stuff!

Employee X was a strong performer however a HORRIBLE organizer.  At issue was the problem of client folders being left in her own office, and therefore not accessible to the team.  To make matters much more difficult, her desk and piles on the floor were impossibly disorganized.  Team members would not be able to locate the folders. Some just were unwilling to rifle through the piles. This slowed client responses and work, created frustration and tension about Employee X and made the company look bad for allowing rule breaking due to “favoritism” (as it was perceived).

As I sat Employee X back down and explained that as this was a second time we ere speaking about this particular issue, she was receiving a formal written warning.  This very bright, experienced and mid-career individual looked very confused.  As we went through the details, expectations and possible outcomes of her actions, she was becoming MORE bewildered.  I stopped and mentioned that she seems more confused.  I asked what was going on? What was confusing?

“You never said I would be fired.”  Jaw drop. Ummmm…I had to pause there to consider what was going on here.

Boss Action!

Today’s lesson: Understanding must allow for different experiences and the space to ask questions!
REALLY people! I even have a talk on this! This person had lived in the United States for 15 years but had come from another country. Bad Talmar. Bad Boss. 

During our first, verbal warning though I had said such jewels as “to stay employed here”.  Or “All employees are REQUIRED to….” Employee X really was not familiar with the concept of termination.  Most employees, in her experience, changed jobs when they quit but not because your employer was unhappy. As we discussed it further, she even mentioned that the word “terminated” did not really bring to her mind the idea of being “fired”. Fired was a word she valued as final and serious.

What happened? I leaned in closer, looked her straight in the eyes and very directly said “Hear me now. If you do not meet these deadlines and keep the files as our system requires, you will be fired from this company.” She shrugged her shoulders, said “OK” and I never had to a problem with her again. She worked at the company another 5 years.

Remember that we need to consider that people do not understand concepts, meanings or intentions exactly as you do.  A Boss makes sure there is space to ask questions, defines a process with follow up (it wasn’t until the 2nd more formal warning did I even KNOW that she was not getting the concept) and protects the team.  You got this!

Now Go! Grow!

Talmar Anderson