04 Jul 2020

When the love has gone

Now, I’m not talking about personal relationships, but on the matter of incompatibility at work. You know the deal – when you hire someone that is fantastic in every way but over time the relationship changes. They interviewed well, reference checks were glowing, first 12 months in the job were predominantly pretty bloody flash… but then, some cracks start to appear in the veneer.

Results are still strong, your employee is meeting targets but you’re getting the odd bit of negative feedback that starts to make your hair stand on end. As time goes on, more complaints start to roll in and an uneasy feeling starts to form in the pit of your stomach. Can you relate? More time passes by and the disconnect gets more pronounced – you lose trust in your star employee, you start watching their every move and quite frankly the love is dying. You know it’s time to call it quits but what on earth do you do and where do you even start?

Clearly, when it comes to employment relationships both you and your employee have a wide range of legal obligations that you need to meet before you even think about writing that Dear John letter. Following the law is always good, so I would highly recommend you get some advice before you take matters into your own hands. However, there are lots of things you can do before you start down that track.

Firstly, start talking to your employee. No, I mean really talking to them. Have that hard conversation early and be upfront about how you feel. Use lots of examples and evidence of why your love is dying (you don’t have to use my terminology by the way!) as this helps people understand exactly what’s going on. Don’t think you can have one courageous conversation and your relationship will be rekindled and your star employee will be back on track. Possibly, you might have to have that hard conversation a few times in a row! If you’re lucky your feelings and their behaviours may change. But chances are, they may not. Once doubt, lack of trust and you gut feeling of incompatibility start to creep in, it can be a hard road back.

So, things haven’t improved and you’re dreading going to work, your employee is also miserable and quite frankly you’d rather not see each other anymore. Some employees and employers can have that “up front” conversation that ends well for both parties but it’s a very risky game you play if you feel you can just say “this isn’t working and I want you out”. Risky equals expensive. Don’t get me wrong – some business owners are quite prepared to make this call, but it’s not one we recommend every day.

What are your other options? Next, you could raise an employment relationship problem with your employee and head towards mediation. I’ve written about mediation services in the past and how effective they can be – it’s essentially a free service run by the Government that can get a positive outcome for both parties. This isn’t guaranteed of course but is a confidential process that allows you to plainly explain why you’ve fallen out of love.

Lastly, when you’re really at the end of your tether, I would highly recommend you employ the services of a great employment lawyer – we are lucky in Waikato with a wide range of superb ones. They can guide you through the least risky path and help you move on and help your employee free up their future to find a new role.

Whatever you do, you must be prepared to have good evidence and data to support your position so don’t be afraid to start documenting what’s been happening and do start having those hard conversations with your star employee when they aren’t meeting your standards and behavioural expectations. Remember, the behaviours you walk by and don’t act on are the ones you are accepting and endorsing.