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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Old ane new: Employee (and employer) accountability and communication

Last night, I reviewed the departing memo from our former administrative employee. She described the woeful inadequacies of our computer systems and the horrible state of our office. She also had a few less-than-enthusiastic words about my own behaviour. Ouch.

Her complaints are well taken, and I appreciate the initiative of another of the company's senior employees in co-ordinating the exit interview/report (to be given to me only after the departing employee left). After all, as company president/owner, I am truly accountable and responsible for everything that happens here, and it is important for me to learn what is really happening, not what people simply tell me because I am signing their paycheques. (Spelling here is Canadian.)

Nevertheless, what should I do with this information, and why do we have these problems?

Part of the issue of course is the recession's lingering austerity. Systems/office maintenance and upgrading are expenses that can be deferred, at least short term, and when cash is in short supply, they are. Another issue is the communications dynamics between me and the former employee; our business operates on a fairly loose and entrepreneurial manner, employees are encouraged to speak their mind, advocate for change where appropriate, and then, where possible, to take action themselves to solve problems.

(In earlier years, I interpreted this philosophy far too loosely, causing employees to act from self interest rather than the company's best interests -- now, these are aligned through the business planning and meeting system.)

I've forwarded memos and discussion papers to the new employee and explained straightforwardly the negative reviews of the previous employee (though of course respect confidentiality and haven't sent the actual review to anyone else). My goal is to allow the new employee to know exactly what she is taking on and give her time, as she works out her notice at her current employer's place, to think about strategies she might want to implement to solve the problems.

Next week will be interesting, in that word's bigger sense. As we wait for our new administrative employee to arrive, we are evaluating a new sales candidate in the office, and a temporary employee must fill the administrator's desk -- as we conclude production of our January issues in time for the Christmas deadline. I hope things won't be too chaotic. On the other hand, I'm excited about the energy this change brings to the business, allowing us to set the stage for a dynamic New Year with much growth and progress.

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