Once Upon a time…an employee starts a new job. She’s like Cinderella walking in the forest. The sun is shining, birds are getting her files and cute mice are making copies. Somewhere along the way, a spell is cast (a slight, real or perceived) and all of a sudden it’s midnight in the Kingdom. The boss has turned into Lady Tremaine and the co-workers are the evil step sisters. And those mice have big teeth and are hungry!
The boss is wondering what happened and Cinderella is furious that everyone is not reading her mind. In a small business the Fairy Tale quickly becomes a Nightmare. Cinderella is slamming drawers, huffing when asked to do things and giving dirty looks to everyone. (You know this happens, it could have even been you) How does Lady Tremaine convince Cinderella that her coach is not a pumpkin and she is not locked in an attic?!?
If you are at this point, you need to pull Cinderella aside. Figure out what the issues are and if they can be fixed. Set expectations and follow through. You do not want a poison apple to be passed along. Misery is contagious!
Hopefully you aren’t there yet, but in a land not so far away it will happen, eventually! Do you have a set of “Laws of the Kingdom” (Guidebook)? If you have more than two employees you need one. This Frames out your rules (attendance, review policy, EEOC, ADA, Work Comp, Sexual Harassment, Social Media, etc.) and benefits (holiday pay, leave policy, insurance, etc.). The Laws of the Kingdom keep the sun shining. There are NO questions when rules are in black and white. These “Laws” give Cinderella and the step sisters a sense of comfort. They know ahead of time what is owed to them. They can plan a cruise to visit Ariel, they know when their reviews are scheduled and they are aware of the Sexual Harassment Policy (some princes are just relentless). There is great comfort in knowing you don’t have to fear or negotiate every request.
The “Laws” are also necessary for other reasons. Your General Liability Company will want a copy to see if you have a Harassment Policy. Your Work Comp will want to see your Safety Policy and if you allow the Mice to work light duty if needed. If you follow your own “Laws” and eventually need to terminate someone for cause, you should be able to show all the write ups. Unemployment will want to see that you had a clear policy and gave someone advance notice to fix the issues. Illinois is an At Will Kingdom. It doesn’t mean if you terminate without cause that Cinderella won’t be able to file for benefits or sue you. If you can show you followed your guidebook consistently you can save the Kingdom from paying a higher rate for years to come.
The “Laws” will change as you grow. Keep a journal and note what worked and what has not. You can make an amendment at anytime with notice (in writing). Remember, if you make an exception you have changed the rule for everyone. The most generous is the new rule. The key to running the Kingdom is fairness and consistency. The “Laws” will help you and Cinderella stay out of the woods; old ladies with apples are waiting for the weak.
We all want to go to the office escorted by a singing Blue Bird. But Work is not a Fairy Tale…Don’t Bite the Apple.