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What to Do When an Employee Continues to Overstep

Some retailers would nip an overstepping employee in the bud, while others would attempt to manage such initiative for the betterment of their business.




LISA’S MANAGEMENT STYLE encouraged staff to offer ideas that could potentially grow her store’s customer base and/or help the business run more smoothly. She held monthly team meetings, during which she shared procedure updates and new product information, and staff offered suggestions for upcoming events and feedback on day-to-day operations. (Plus there were snacks … always snacks). To encourage communication between team members, there was also a group chat for exchanging ideas and info between meetings.


Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.


JODI ETIENNE is the founder and owner of Razzle Dazzle Doggie Bow-tique in Bradley, IL. After spending many years as an elementary school teacher, educating pet parents became Jodi’s new mission. Since 2005, Razzle Dazzle’s friendly, knowledgeable staff has helped guide community members in making healthy choices regarding pet health and nutrition. Jodi shares her life with her amazing husband, Steve (AKA the maintenance man), Shih Tzu rescues Poppy and Growlie, and Arabian horses Rez, Brach and Joey.

A staff handbook covered opening/closing routines, inventory management, POS system support, and directions on stocking, cleaning and other tasks for when the store wasn’t busy. Lisa allowed team members to switch work dates or hours with each other as long as the store was covered.
She also delegated special tasks to interested staff.

In Lisa’s mind, this was a good way to run her team: Set guidelines and expectations, but also encourage staff to invest in the business’s success and to self-manage in certain areas.

Kathy, one of Lisa’s newest team members, was quite vocal about loving her job at the busy pet store. Possessing a vast personal knowledge of raw feeding and an eagerness to learn even more about what to feed her own pack, Kathy had seemed like a perfect hire. Outgoing and friendly, she enjoyed sharing her knowledge with customers.

Already Kathy was expressing an interest in management. She also had vocalized her desire to buy the business one day. While Lisa welcomed enthusiasm and ideas, some of Kathy’s suggestions were overly presumptuous and downright pushy. Lisa was beginning to lose her patience. Kathy was overstepping, and other team members were becoming suspicious and irritated.

During a staff meeting, Kathy volunteered to do all of the ongoing tasks for Facebook, the website and newsletter. Lisa assigned her to only one. On another occasion, Kathy insisted she knew a much better system to reorder products because her husband managed an office-supply store.


While Lisa was on vacation, Kathy switched the store’s music to her own favorite radio station (one that didn’t play the store’s radio advertisements). Kathy also rearranged a seasonal display assigned to another team member because she had a “better” idea.

Believing customers would like them, Kathy added six SKUs of new tripe treats to a distributor order without approval. Deciding the staff work schedule needed revamping, Kathy handed Lisa a new staff work calendar she’d created at home. Kathy also eagerly pointed out to Lisa when daily cleaning and restocking tasks hadn’t been completed by other team members.

On the Saturday before the store’s anniversary event, Lisa walked in to find a team member printing out copies of a coloring page. Lisa asked him about it. Kathy piped up, “He’s making coloring pages for the kids who attend our anniversary event. We’re setting up a coloring table.

Isn’t that fun?” The activity had not been discussed during planning of the event. In fact, with the volume of customers expected, there wouldn’t even be space for a coloring table.

Lisa regularly gave Kathy feedback about gaining approval before implementing her ideas, but Kathy continued to overstep. Lisa had had enough.

The Big Questions

  • Should Lisa fire Kathy?
  • Or embrace Kathy’s initiative by promoting her to a management role?
  • Or better set boundaries? How might she do that?


Angela V.
Houston, TX

An employee who fails to follow the rules after multiple meetings with management should be let go. Whether the behavior is a lack or excess of any quality that makes for a good worker, it’s a nuisance that can impact everyone’s work morale and productivity.

Mike O.
Columbia, TN

I love to see initiative from any crew member as it doesn’t seem to be a part of many personalities. I’m always open to new ideas! I do ask that any procedural changes be run by management first. I would not promote an individual I’m having issues with, and I would give her a set amount of time to learn to do as I ask!

Brittany S.
Jefferson City, MO

Part of fine-tuning your business involves closely examining the natural leadership and management styles within your team. If a staff member is constantly draining your energy and requires frequent meetings, it’s a clear sign they might not be suited for management. It’s crucial to have managers who are highly compatible with your vision and work style. If someone is causing chaos in your business and you find yourself regularly irritated by them, it’s best to find a replacement sooner rather than later. Letting someone go is never easy, but the success of your business relies on having a strong team and capable leaders.

Krista S.
St. Petersburg, FL

I don’t believe I would fire this person for wanting to go above and beyond. Figuring out a way to reel her in while giving her the creative freedom she wants is key. That said, I do empathize with an employee overstepping. In this case, I would chat with the employee and share my observations, how it affects me and the team, and explain why. I would also thank this person for going above and beyond because it’s extremely rare to have an employee willing to not only think outside the box but execute. Then, I would create a specific project and/or reassign something to this person that is “theirs,” as well as set up a weekly meeting when I can say yes/no to whatever they bring up and explain why.

Lorin G.
Houston, TX

This is actually the problem: Kathy is controlling. She thinks she knows how to do everything better. Many business owners own businesses because they feel the same, but this is not Kathy’s business. Lisa must spell that out plainly. Potentially, Kathy moves on by her own choice should she not like how that meeting goes. At least Lisa is addressing the issues. What she allows will continue. Lisa must set the terms.

Brett F.
Owego, NY

Kathy is overall an employee Lisa should want around her business, in terms of knowledge and enthusiasm. I think a write-up spelling out each time Kathy has overstepped is in order, along with a sit-down to discuss further steps, including dismissal if she doesn’t dial it back. And in that meeting, Lisa sets firm boundaries and gives detailed explanations of expectations for Kathy.

Diane B.
Morris, MN

While being a tad bit pushy, it’s go-getters like Kathy who get things done. I would tell her she could be an assistant manager on a project, assistant meaning she must have everything OK’d by me first. I’d then gather the rest of the employees and update them. If anyone has an idea to add to the project, well, let’s hear it. It makes for a good work environment if employees feel they also “own” the store. Not so much that they change the rules, but that they take pride in its success.

Lisa B.
Bentonville, AR

I would have a meeting with Kathy and lay out boundaries for what her role in the company encompasses and what it does not. I would give Kathy a chance after to see if she can work within those boundaries, and if she cannot then it would be best to part ways. Kathy has the potential to be a good manager with her proactiveness and ability to plan. But not if she cannot respect the chain of command.

Samm A.
Saint George, UT

I’m a Lisa! I love to hire passionate people and foster their creative independence! Lisa sounds like a phenomenal boss. If I were her, I’d have an open conversation with Kathy and not let the situation slide. I would NOT fire Kathy, as she sounds like a wonderful asset. I think these “oversteps” can be worked out with transparency and a genuine conversation.

Paul L.
Mount Dora, FL

Lisa is lucky to have such a motivated staff member! But it sounds like Kathy needs guidance as well as boundaries. Kathy has that go-get-it attitude very few of today’s hires have, and Lisa should embrace it by offering a management internship to see if she can mold Kathy into being her right-hand woman. With someone like-minded in place, it would allow Lisa to take some time for herself. Kathy has great initiative and just needs to be guided in the right direction. Lisa needs to correct the behavior right away and reassure other staff that Kathy is not in charge … yet.

Chris F.
Lee’s Summit, MO

While it’s good to give staff some freedoms, an organizational chart is imperative. Letting staff know what their responsibilities are allows you to hold them accountable and for them to excel. Taking initiative that impedes another employee is detrimental. Lisa needs to set boundaries. If Kathy continues to step outside of them, let her go.

Nicole D.
Cuyahoga Falls, OH

Thinking you can run a store better than the owner and doing things without approval is insubordination. It’s sneaky because it’s disguised as initiative. Doing what you want without permission and/or being concerned with the result, and with an attitude? Bye.

Doug S.
New City, NY

I don’t have all the answers, and many of my younger employees have incredible ideas that are beneficial to the business. But like on any good ship, the captain needs to know what the first mate and crew are planning or they could steer the ship directly into the storm. I always use this analogy so as not to suppress their ideas or have them think I’m like a parent stepping on their thinking, and it seems to really hit home for them in most cases.

Ramie G.
Evanston, IL

Is Kathy competing with Lisa? Or can she be redirected as an asset? I’d try to use Kathy’s enthusiasm to take things off my plate and see how she does with guidelines and supervision. Don’t get territorial — think of how she can benefit you and your own time shortages.

Keela H.
Sidney, MT

That would be so frustrating! But work within her skill set and give her tasks that she can thrive and be creative. As well as give her boundaries to stay within. Then maybe implement a three-strikes policy.

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