Recent conversations with business owners have brought to light a problem that is very common but seldom talked about.
This is the problem small business owners face when key staff hold them to ransom because they believe the businesses owners, or even the businesses, could not cope without them. Running a small team makes everyone’s contribution significant and any negativity can have a huge impact on team morale and the culture of the organisation.
People tend to let their ego or self-importance get in the way; they start to erroneously (as is often the case) believe that the success the business is achieving is down to them and not the collective effort of the team!
Business owners have told me of
• employees threatening to leave unless they received a pay rise (usually at a rate that defies market trends)
• employees requesting an unreasonable pay rise in order to keep doing what they are being paid for
• others have employees that go on long term sick!
This situation tends to rear its head when the business owner is in a pressured or vulnerable situation. Some business owners have felt so cornered that they felt they had to give in to these unreasonable demands. I’ve been in these situations myself and personally I did give in the first time this happened to me. I was unwell and just did not have the emotional or physical bandwidth to deal with the situation.
But looking back there are a few things that I’ve learnt which dictate how I handle any future situations:
• Trust When someone holds you to ransom, you have to understand that you can no longer trust them and when trust is broken, I see no reason to entrust one of your most important assets, the business you’ve worked so hard to build into the hands of someone you trust.
• Abundance Unless you are in an industry where there is a serious lack of skilled workers, you’ll find someone else who is a better fit for your company in the long term. Don’t be held to ransom. You’ll be shocked when you start to look at the wealth of talent out there. Think abundance not lack.
• Document everything You need to set your business up with systems and procedures so that there is visibility of roles and no one person feels they know everything – it’s all about teamwork and developing a culture where procedures are kept up to date and the focus in on the role rather than the person.
• Act immediately I’d immediately get rid of this person because you can bet your last dollar that this person who is now disenfranchised with the business will now be spreading ill will amongst other staff members. It’s really not worth holding on to them.
• Recruit on values and not on competency. Your recruitment process has to be really robust to ensure that you are recruiting the right people. Building a team that can support you in growing your business takes more than simply filling the skills gap. You need a team of people that you share common values with.
• Even when you do give in, it’s only going to breed resentment and they are going to keep asking for more!
Every small business owner I know feels responsible for their staff. Forsaking their own pay and well-being just to make sure that payroll is met even when things are difficult. I know you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders running your businesses and seldom have people you can share the load with.
It’s important that you surround yourself with a network of peers, mentors, advisors, friends and family who will help you through these difficult times.
The majority of your employees will appreciate this and value their jobs so don’t let one or two hold you to ransom; threatening to destroy the business you’ve worked so hard to build.
Let them go. You’ll find people who are a better fit. It may take time and it may initially be a painful experience but remember all the challenges and obstacles you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today.
You got so far without them and you’ll go even further without the baggage.