There’s an old clichéd saying: familiarity breeds contempt. I was reminded of this the other day while interacting with a new designer I had hired for one of my books. We were in a virtual argument across emails over a design decision I had made that she didn’t want to accept.
I live by several tenets that I believe are integral to the Christian faith and to my witness, of which courtesy and respect for others are at the top of that list. We are to abide by the two greatest commandments: love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
However, I’m beginning to find that in my case, I carry that too far in the employee/employer relationship. I laugh and joke with people who work for me, I confess to my foibles and my mistakes, I’m eager to establish a friendly and enjoyable environment with people so that they’ll feel welcome and encouraged to provide their best on the jobs we do together.
And it’s all backfiring horribly.
I’ve created an environment where people feel free to argue with me over every little thing. I’ve created an environment that encourages people to offer me excuses for missed deadlines for work contracted for over another client they might have that isn’t so gracious and “understanding.” I’ve created an environment where people I pay for work consider us equal in this work environment and the constraints of an employee/employer relationship are nowhere to be seen.
You may think I’m on a power-hungry trip, but nothing could be further from the truth. What I find myself doing is spending too much time justifying my reasons for my decisions to people who don’t really need an explanation. I’m paying them to perform a job. They just need to do the job.
I’m spending too much time in email conversations over missed deadlines and wondering if the excuses I’m hearing are legit or just a way to pacify me while they dedicate time to other projects or because they don’t feel like working on what they’ve been contracted to do at the moment.
I’m spending too much time doing jobs that I’ve paid other people to do because I don’t want to disappoint clients who depend on me. My clients are my bread and butter—they fuel my business. The last thing I want to do is fail to follow through on promises made to them.
Here are a few things I’ve decided to do from here on out:
- Be more professional in my hiring and interaction with employees. The simple fact is, this relationship is not for us to become best buddies. We need to work together in an environment of mutual respect and courtesy, yes. But at the end of the day, I’m writing the check. We are not on equal footing and we are not BFFs. This isn’t a social club.
- Be firm in job expectations and parameters. For example, I’ve been in publishing for years. This isn’t my first rodeo. While I appreciate suggestions to improve the process or to make a book look even better, I have certain expectations of what a final product will look like. I also have the wishes and desires of a client I’ve been conversing with to consider and make happy. They also have a vision for their book. My job is to make them thrilled with the final product, not see to it that the inner Michelangelo is satisfied of those I hire to perform the work. My first priority is my client.
- Be absolute in project deadlines. I already calculate the “crap” factor into my deadlines. You know what I’m talking about… those moments where you go “Oh, crap!” because an unforeseen problem crops up that you weren’t expecting. Allowing an employee to use up the allotment of crap factor in a job over and over again is not beneficial to our businesses. This job isn’t for them to “find” themselves. Just because they’re not punching a time clock doesn’t mean there are no expectations. This problem is more prevalent in the creative industries than others, but it seems to be an increasing problem no matter what industry you find yourself in.
- Conduct myself in a professional manner. I look at successful businesswomen and notice one factor: there is a clear and dividing line that establishes who’s the boss. There is no give and take. Job assignments are made and the expectation is that those job assignments will be performed as stipulated and on time. Anything else is not acceptable.
I don’t like confrontation, but I’ve decided it’s time to put on my big girl panties and deal. My business is growing and expanding, and I can either grow with it or suffer the consequences of it dying a slow and painful death because I refuse to handle problems head on.
We all need to get comfortable in the leadership role that being an entrepreneur puts us in. If we can’t do that, then the marketplace will see to it that our businesses do not succeed.
It’s just the cold hard fact of what business is all about. We can grow into our leadership roles or we can refuse to acknowledge them. We’ll either move forward or backward because in business, there is no standing still.
It’s up to each of us to decide which direction we want to go.
Hanne is a freelance writer, editor, and independent publisher of quality non-fiction and fiction through her publishing company, Heritage Press Publications. She has an avid love of the written word and enjoys helping writers find their voices. A self-confessed book addict, chocolate lover, coffee snob, and Jesus follower, Hanne divides her time between work, family life, her vegetable garden, chickens, dogs, and grandchildren, all on 27 acres in Mississippi.
Learn more about Hanne at www.heritagepresspublications.com.