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The Case of the Holiday Staffing Hurdle — We Want Your Thoughts

Here’s what readers are saying so far.




IN OUR LATEST REAL DEAL scenario, Ellen feels confident she’s ready for the holidays. She’s especially thankful that her longtime employee Sue ias able to step up and work full-time in December so that Ellen can spend her time doing what she loves most, grooming dogs.

Then she gets a phone call.

“Hi Ellen, it’s Sue. Listen, I’m at the airport, and I don’t have much time to talk, but I won’t be able to make it to work tomorrow. Dad just rang; Mom’s had a stroke, and it’s serious. I hope you can find someone to cover for me because I need to go home.”

Of all the things she imagined going wrong, Sue not showing up for work wasn’t one of them. Ellen doesn’t even know where to start to fix this problem.

Several questions now arise:

  • How can Ellen protect herself from depending too much on individual members of staff in the future?
  • Is Ellen right to let Sue take as much time off as she needs?
  • What should Ellen do to get her business through the next few weeks and the busy holiday season?

We’d love to hear what you think. Check out the full scenario and send us your own response here.


Below is a sampling of the responses we’ve received so far.

Kim L.
Roanoke, VA 

The employer should be reasonably accommodating in order to ensure the prize employee feels secure in their position when their period of family crisis is over. If the employer does not allow the employee to have the time off for this type of crisis, the chances of the employee choosing to leave the company are high. The long-term effects of losing a top sales person will be far more detrimental to the business over the course of what could have been a long and mutually profitable partnership. Sometimes the loss of someone over a short period of time is necessary and it is the responsibility of a small-business owner to prepare for and manage the crisis while respecting the needs of the employees.

Terri E.
Salem, OR 

What a good thing to be thinking about now! I plan to hire a high school student for part-time work now and will get them trained before the holiday season. This person won’t necessarily have the experience needed to work with our customers but can do all the backup work in the store to free up my experienced staff for more customer-facing time. The PT person can clean, straighten, handle recycling all the cardboard, stock shelves, answer the phone and be our runner. I think it’s always good to have a backup employee in mind.

Eric M.
Columbus, NC

It’s just one of those things you need a plan for, and be ready to jump in if and when it does happen. Given it’s the employee’s parents, and not some long-distance relative, I feel OK letting the employee have the time needed to get situated and take care of matters. I would like communication and a possible return date. In my opinion, this is part of small business, flexibility and compassion.

Simple: Ellen and other will need to work some hours to cover.

Karen C.
Delavan, WI

We (I!) also offer grooming/training as well as full line of goods. Always have a few people that are familiar enough with your store to at least run the register and answer phones. In an emergency, any number of people can step up.


Can’t be afraid to ask for help from current and past employees/family in times like this!

Don’t underestimate your clients; if you are honest about the situation, they will be understanding if appointments have to be adjusted.

We have adjusted store hours temporarily, to ensure proper staffing during emergencies.

The employee should take the time she needs without risk of losing her job. Good and loyal help is hard to find, and life happens.

We don’t get stressed about the holidays. We are here for our clients “with bells on.” Our clients appreciate that our customer service, pricing and selection are full-time all year. This makes the unexpected stuff less disastrous.


Read the Full Scenario ➜





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