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Handling the Employee Who Loves to Drop F-Bombs … and More Questions Answered for April




I have a staff member who drops the occasional F-bomb when interacting with customers. How seriously should I take this?

This is really as much a test of your EQ as management skills. Swearing in itself is not always bad. According to various psychologists, it boosts endorphins, promotes social bonding and makes people more persuasive. However, there are also many times when yes, it is inappropriate and unprofessional, and indicates an inability to better articulate a thought. If your employee is not offending anyone, then maybe just let him be the character he is.

When we have events that serve beer and wine, it can be hard to get people to leave. Any ideas how to get them to leave without offending them?

Close the bar 45 minutes before the end of your event for a start. And if you’re too polite to ask people to leave, turn off the music — they’ll get the hint.

What do you say when someone asks about the competition?

Stay positive, or be non-committal: “We actually don’t consider them competitors, as we operate in a different part of the market.” Just don’t bad-mouth them, even if they’ve been less than nice about you. Customers will think less of you if you do.

I may have trouble meeting some of my financial obligations in the not-too-distant future. Should I apply for a line of credit or look to sell a stake in the business to help get me through?

Two bits of crusty old business wisdom to consider:

  • Never take from a partner what you can borrow from a bank.
  • You can’t borrow your way out of trouble.

We’d advise that you try to get the line of credit (although it may not be easy if revenues are slumping) and then try not to use it. During times of change like this, your best resources are your imagination and entrepreneurial skills. Start testing different approaches to the way you do business. Explore new markets, new business models, new marketing channels. Topping off the gas won’t help if there’s something fundamentally wrong with your engine.

After another round of performance reviews, the atmosphere in the store seems to be one of general deflation. How can we improve this process?

Delivering the perfect performance review could be the hardest task in management. In a 2011 survey, one in four workers said they hated the annual assessment more than anything else in their jobs; 55 percent thought theirs was unfair or inaccurate. The problem, of course, comes down to how bad we humans are at accepting criticism and our parallel need to be reassured our efforts mean something. This dichotomy has led consultants to recommend the “sandwich technique” — praise, then criticize, then praise. But there seems to be a consensus building that this technique only confuses the recipient. In their book Thanks For The Feedback, Harvard law professors Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen recommend separating reviews into three sessions that provide appreciation, coaching and evaluation. Our take is that you should be doing these things on an almost daily basis. If there are no surprises, the review process tends to go far more smoothly.


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