At a recent association event, one of our company’s most successful clients volunteered that her biggest problem is that she needs to spend most of her time “babysitting” her employees. She leads with another family member a highly-successful and systematized contracting business, with more than a dozen employees in the office alone (not counting field workers).
I nodded in agreement, offering in response an insight I had received through a networking group of growing, successful busiensses: Somewhere around 20 to 25 employees, businesses need to establish formalized human resources departments with specific responsibilities for staffing, hiring, benefits, terminations, and the like.
However, human resources problems and conflicts occur even when a business has three, four or five employees. I’m dealing with one of these issues now. I can see the clouds looming, heading to an emotional and angry outburst of “unfairness” sometime in the fall this year. One employee is setting the stage to shut the other one out of an initiative he started, which is leading to significant overall business success. The employee stirring the pot and ”trouble” is bright, highly competent, and is doing everything by the book. The impending possible “victim” is far less successful and has, at times, exhibited shocking immaturity. In fact, in his efforts to protect himself from the first employee’s purported interference and “stealing” of his initiatives, he set himself up to lose a solid client relationship, badly, and now is about to be shut out of the project he helped create from scratch.
As I see the upcoming storm looming, I’m doing my best to ensure consistency within our policies, which I’ve communicated frequently to everyone in the organization. I won’t force employees to love each other; I’ll respect competence and initiative, but equally I will always favour and respect co-operation and will do my best to balance the equation in the business’s best interests.
I would like to say that there are simple solutions to the conflicts between harmony, competence, and self-interest. Sometimes “peacemakers” help out, sometimes you just have to acknowledge that office politics are part of the story and live with the facts at hand. This is one story where I simply don’t have a satisfactory answer.