I remember when I was managing a property for a small company I worked for. I had been doing exceptionally well, everything ran smoothly, staff was great, my rapport with residents and employees was stellar, numbers were where they needed to be…things were looking up.
And then my two elderly parents began falling apart at the same time, with falls, broken bones, countless hospital visits and stays…and my sanity. My husband took a much wanted job out of state, leaving me and my 2 young girls behind to not disrupt their lives in school or take me away from my care-taking of my parents. My own District Manager at this job was embezzling and causing much stress among us property managers, leaving us no one to turn to and feeling voiceless. And then finally, the darkest time I’d ever come up against took place amid all of this – my father died. At work, I scrambled to stay on top of things. I worked double, even triple time to compensate for my now scatter-brained work performance. I knew I was falling apart. I tried so hard to maintain control of the one place I felt I had some, that I took on too much, and did not delegate or reach out for help. My reports were being sent to corporate late, my response time to residents slowed, my ability to fill vacancies faltered… and the owner of the company took notice.
I’ll never forget his words to me in a meeting he decided to hold with myself, my District Manager, and the HR officer. He said to me, “Ms. Burrus… I like you. I like you a lot. You are a smart, hard working and honest lady and I have no doubt about your abilities. I realize you have a lot going on personally, but that’s really neither here nor there. You are here to do a job. Lately, your numbers are suffering, and I can’t have that. When your numbers suffer, I suffer. You are reaching into my pockets when you aren’t doing your job properly. Now…go get yourself together, get your head back in the game, and get out of my pockets or our next meeting won’t be so cheerful.”
OUCH. Cheerful, this was not. I felt like he punched me in the gut. Now, I won’t lie and say I wasn’t a little ruffled. I mean, I just lost my DAD for chrissake, but HEY, you got it bud! Numbers it is!! But the more I thought about his words, the more I realized he was right. He wasn’t there to coddle me or be patient with me or feel sorry for me. The man had a business to run. And I was holding him back. That’s all he cared about, and that’s all he needed to care about. He was also right that the more I didn’t succeed at my job, the more I was pulling money out of his pockets.
The moral of this story is to show that an employee who is dead weight for whatever reason, is costing the business money. We have all been this employee. We may not realize that we are as it is happening, but I would submit that if we were to become super honest with ourselves, that we can recall a time that we just were not putting in our share of work. Regardless of the reason behind it, this is still not an excuse. We all get burned out, depressed, have home issues, children giving us a hard time, an elderly person needing attention, death in family… I had no excuse, and so I offered a sincere apology to this owner, and expressed to him that I would show up as the employee he had expected, going forward. I assured him of my game plan and what I would do to get his business where it needed to be.
I admired his approach to me though. He was extremely calm. Very engaged, but yet, professional and removed. Just matter-of-fact. He handled it quite well, actually. Never once showed disdain or anger, but rather just let me know that after all is said and done, though we all have “things” going on behind the scenes… we still have a job to do. We can do the job, or not. Our choice. Choose the latter, and they will not hesitate to find someone else to do the job. It was a tough lesson as far as being called on the mat…but I will never forget those words. It was a lesson I needed to learn myself. My lesson was that regardless of life circumstances, or my feelings about my job – whatever job it may be – or my feelings on policy, etc… I have a choice. Do it or don’t. But I realize that if I stick around and DON’T do it… I’m reaching into someone’s pockets, and they most certainly do not like that.
Have you had an experience like this? Have you had to get really real with yourself and accept the finger pointing in your direction? How as a manager or employee would you handle this?