Life Lesson's From Firing an Employee
Well it's happened to me after just 25 days of business ownership. I knew it would be inevitable, but I wasn't ready for it to happen so soon. What am I talking about you wonder? Well 95% of business are reported to suffer from this each year, and 75% of employees are reported to have participated in this behavior. (https://www.calrest.org) Do you know what it is yet?
It's employee theft.
My story can only be shared now (61 days into business ownership) because I was waiting for all the loose ends to tie up. One of my employees that I had inherited from the previous owner was lying on his timecard. Many may think, "why is that such a big deal. I've rounded up on my time card by 5 minutes before. It makes it easier to calculate the numbers for payroll if it's a nice round number." Well in the janitorial world, many commercial cleaners work alone and unsupervised. This was the case here. After inheriting the building cleaning contract and the employee, I was told that it took 6 hours a night to clean. I was amazed that the current employee was able to manage his full-time day job and come to our building at 5pm and clean until 11pm, Monday through Friday. After speaking with him, he assured me it wasn't a burden and that he just loves working and that he needed to save money for his upcoming wedding. After about two weeks, I became suspicious. I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he wasn't trained well. Or maybe he had an injury that prevented him from moving very fast.
Jessica and I then went in the building and measured the square footage. We put the numbers into our cleaning estimator that lets us know how long an account should take. It projected 4-4.5 hours a night. Now we were getting upset. We knew we were being taken advantage of, but we needed proof. The employee reported the same time every day of 5pm to 11pm Monday through Friday. No variation (this seemed odd as well). We intentionally drove by the building around 5:20 pm one night and he wasn't there. After receiving his timecard at the end of the week, he said he clocked in at 5pm. Again, that wasn't enough evidence and cause to terminate an employee. We wanted to see how far the exaggeration went. The next week, we parked our car in a distant lot to observe when the employee actually arrived. I was guessing 5:30pm. Jessica thought it would be 6pm. I rolled my eyes at Jessica and said "pleeeaase....no one could think of exaggerating their time card by an entire hour". That seemed so malicious and ridiculous to me. Having been raised a Mormon and having the basic belief that almost everyone is good at their heart. Jessica, on the other hand, was raised Catholic during her formative years, so her point of view on the world is closer to "all humans have potential to be evil".
Do you have a guess as to what time this employee finally showed up to the job site? Mind you, Jessica and I were sitting in a parking area with no shade in the middle of a Phoenix summer trying not to overheat our car, with the engine off most of the time. We arrived at 4:45 pm, just in case he showed up early proving our suspicions were unfounded. He didn't show up early. He didn't show up on time at 5pm. He didn't show up at my projected 5:30 pm. He didn't show up at Jessica's projected 6:00 pm. We had an appointment at 7:00 pm and so had to leave at 6:35 pm. He STILL hadn't showed up to work! After several more stake outs, we found out that he was exaggerating his time by at least 3 hours a night.
In the 16 days that this person worked for us, we calculated he "stole" $651.36 through timecard manipulation. He only worked for us for 16 days! The previous employer employed him for a year. That equates to roughly $10,625.31 that was stolen from the previous employer by the same employee. However, according to a new study, we missed a bullet with this employee.
This was a huge lesson learned as new business owners. We felt taken advantage of. We were saddened to know that the previous owner was also taken advantage of for so long. We decided to prevent this happening again. We are not victims. We have since set up a digital, GPS based time tracking app that the employees must use to clock in. If they are not in the building, they cannot clock in. Also, we will always know how long an account generally takes to clean. If we end up purchasing a cleaning contract again, we will insist on walking the building and taking measurements so that we can calculate the time needed to clean and not take the word of the previous owner.
This entire situation made me think of a life lesson analogy. We had to take over cleaning the very night that we terminated this person. That was very difficult to do. Terminating a person's employment and verbally recognizing that he was stealing is confrontational. I HATE confrontation. But I did it! I had the hard conversation. That left Jessica and I cleaning every night for 2+ hours a night. We didn't get home until 9:30 pm on a good night. It took 3 weeks of us cleaning until we had found and trained a person to take over the account. The new person has proven to be honest and willing to learn. His cleanliness standard is much higher than the previous employee who was cutting corners to cut his hours down. We are in a much happier place than we were before. And.....we learned so much about the account by cleaning it for those 3 weeks. We are a better contractor for the experience.
So..... what's the life lesson? Let's say we find ourselves in a tough situation in life where we are being taken advantage of or we are just not happy. This could be a job, a romantic relationship, a familial relationship, or letting the world know that you happen to want to date those of your same gender. Understanding that the first confrontation is going to suck. It just does. All growth in life tends to be painful. Leaving a long-time job, breaking up with a life partner, distancing yourself from a toxic family member, or coming out of the closet are prime examples of painful and potentially confrontational transitions. Also, there is usually a difficult transition stage of adjustment. A toxic family member or romantic partner could try and cause you problems and make you feel guilty for leaving. Friends and family may distance themselves from the new you. Your new job may make you feel uncomfortable and dumb because you are still learning the ropes. This can happen. However, in the end, you will be in a much happier place and feel a sense of empowerment over your life that you've never felt before. Don't let people (employees) take advantage of you. Hold them to a standard, and if they don't step up to that standard, you need to remove them from your life. Take action. One of my favorite quotes from the Mormon faith is "Man is to act and not be acted upon". We are not victims. We have power to act and change our lives. If something in your life is bothering you, think through what you need to do to make it better. BE BRAVE!