Every studio owner hires staff and faculty with the best of intentions, and the hope that everyone will get along and there will be no personnel issues. The reality is, that’s mostly wishful thinking. If your business is growing and you are employing more people, the odds are increasing not one or more hires aren’t going to work out. It is important to have a plan in place for how you are going to deal with problems before they occur. It may not be, and hopefully won’t be, a major issue but even small irritants can become a real stress builder for you if not properly managed.
Bad Apples Come in Many Varieties: Staff and faculty come in all shapes and sizes, and so do their personalities. There are the complainers and those with inappropriate behavior, dress or hygiene. There are employees who are late, unmotivated and lazy, are planning to steal from you, bad mouth you behind your back and are just, in general, a pain in the neck. After more than 20 years of owning a dance studio and getting to know hundreds of other studio owners, it would be impossible to catalog all the things that could go and have gone wrong with an employee.
Resolving Conflicts in Writing: Most people are great during the interview process, but their true colors start to come out once you get into the nitty gritty part of the season. The key is to try to deal with the action, not the attitude. We have found that, to effectively manage people, we need to focus on the specific performance issue, not the emotion that could be driving it. It has been said that you can’t change people. It is also said you can’t manage people, but you can manage agreements. If you are having an issue with someone, have them come in and talk about the situation; you might be able to come to agreement or solution to the problem. If you do, put it in writing and have both parties sign it. I know this may seem a bit much at first glance, but it is more effective when you commit a plan to paper. Once it is in writing, move on. If the issue pops up again, go to the agreement you put in place. If your employee cannot abide by the agreement, it is time to start looking for someone else.
Managing the Problem-Child Employee: Most tangible problems can be resolved. The most challenging and difficult situations that we’ve faced involve people I like to describe as the constant complainers. They usually have no tangible problem to address; they simply feed off a need to complain about anything and everything. The real problem is that they can be destructive to the overall energy of your school and create a negative environment. Your first inclination might be to shout snap out of it or get a grip at them and who could blame you!?but I don’t recommend it. If their teaching or office skills are strong enough that you want to try to solve whatever is eating at them, sit down with the employee and just listen. Take notes, but do not under any circumstance take what they say personally, even if it is personal! Thank them for their input and tell them you will consider whatever matter is on their mind. Try not to come to any conclusions or decisions on the spur of the moment. When you’re put on the spot in these situations and put on the defensive, it is easy to react emotionally, with words and phrases that will only reinforce their negativity. By listening only, you give yourself time to decipher the information they have imparted to you, to mull it over, so that you can make the best decision for your business. When dealing with any employee issue it is always best to be the mediator, even if you are the issue! After all, the main goal is to arrive at a positive resolution for all parties. Then you can move forward. Even if you decide it will be without that employee.
In any discussions with an employee, all above remember to: Show That You Are Listening, Maintain Control Be Diplomatic, Validate the Staff or Faculty Concerns, Act on The Issues. That action can, and probably will, include everything from setting new policies for your workers to firing people you feel will continue to be detrimental to your business. The overriding goal of your business is to find ways to make your studio a fun, happy and creative environment for all. Not everyone you hire will share that goal, and that’s when you must make changes. As unpleasant as firing someone is, when necessary it will ultimately help to reduce your stress level and that will be good news for you and all the other employees who do share your goal and work hard to help you reach it.