Help! My employee is taking advantage of my kindness.

Managing employees is one of the hardest jobs that small business owners have to do. It’s tough-going for all leaders actually. But, unlike your corporate counterparts, YOUR business is your own, and you want your staff to love it as much as you do ❤

Human beings are complex creatures, right? They don’t come with a manual. You’re probably a really nice person and you treat your employees well. In return, you want them to respect you. Not take advantage of you. Who wouldn’t?

Being a people manager doesn’t mean you can’t be kind. Kindness is a super quality to have. But sometimes, you need to respectfully assert yourself to show your team who’s the boss 💪

ARE THEY REALLY TAKING THE PI$$?

It’s hard to judge whether your employees are really exploiting your kindness. You might be doubting yourself and wondering whether you’re just being paranoid? 🤔

In my experience, I’d say that the following are warning signs to watch out for:

❌Your employees don’t do what you ask them to

❌They’re not as accessible as you need them to be (say if they’re travelling lots, or working from a different location to you)

❌They’re often late to work, or they miss deadlines

❌They frequently take time off

❌They’ve stopped asking for your permission to do things (like take time off)

❌Their work output isn’t what you need it to be

❌You’re picking up extra work because of their slackness

👀 By the way, for tips on managing staff who don’t work in the same location as you, check out this blog.

DO YOU LEAD LIKE A BOSS?

Leading like a boss absolutely requires kindness, but it also demands assertiveness 💪

The Cambridge Dictionary definition of ‘assertive’ is this 👇

Someone who is assertive, behaves confidently, and is not frightened to say what they want or believe.

Read 👀 the above definition again, and ask yourself honestly, if this describes YOU!

Leading like a boss means being crystal clear about what you want from your people. And more importantly, spelling out what you don’t want.

Try being assertive just once this week. Notice how it makes you feel and how it impacts on the people who work for you.

CREATE BOUNDARIES 📏

One of the mistakes small business owners often make, is becoming friends with their employees. Is this you?

If it is, it’s totally understandable. I get it! After all, a small business is often a tight-knit team that works closely together.

But, being a friend to an employee – instead of being a boss – makes it MEGA difficult to do all the things you have to do as their manager.

If you’re super-close to an employee, you might turn a blind-eye to a performance issue. Perhaps you let them get away with being late, because you’re scared of upsetting them?

This is no way to run a successful business ✋ It’ll prevent you from being able to grow your company. It could stop you from delivering great products or services to your clients. And, the extra work you’ll have to do – to pick up the slack – will drive you around the twist 😱

If you’re already a buddy to your team, it’s not too late to start pulling back a little. Do this by:

🏡 Keeping some of your home life and work life separate

💷 Making sure you don’t confide in your employees about things they don’t need to know e.g. your company finance

🙊 Not slagging off other employees, suppliers, or clients to your staff

CREATE A CULTURE OF FEEDBACK

Giving regular, on-the-spot feedback is a great way to assert your authority. It’s a visible demonstration of who’s in charge, and it helps your employees to get better at what they do.

I don’t mean constantly nit picking and micromanaging. I’m talking about timely and constructive feedback – making sure you’re explaining the ‘why’ every time

For example:

  • Karen, in future, can you make sure you double-check the estimate before you send it to the client please? Only, you’ve sent them last year’s prices which means we’ll now make less profit from that order.
  • Stuart, before we travel to see that client again, please can you confirm their attendance in advance? Only, we’ve just wasted half a day travelling for no reason.


Don’t forget that on-the-spot feedback should be positive too. For example:

  • Colin, I loved the way you handled that customer complaint. Nice work!
  • Mel, that website looks amazing. Well done. I’m expecting the client to love it, aren’t you?


I’ve written an entire blog on having honest convos with your staff. Why not take a peek?

CARROT AND STICK

It feels a little parent-child sometimes, to say that there needs to be rewards and consequences for your employee’s actions. But, it’s totally necessary. Why? Because it sets the tone for how you do business, and it also protects it

These can be informal. For example, you send an employee home after lunch, because they worked late on a presentation the night before

They can also be formal things that are written in a contract or HR policy. For example, a written warning for lateness, or a bonus for making sales.

If done in a consistent way, they can help encourage certain behaviours. And if you’re the one implementing them, it sets you apart as the boss 👌

LEAN ON YOUR HR POLICIES

If you have an employee handbook, or a disciplinary policy – you should use it. This document sets out what your employees can expect from you, and what you expect from them. And more importantly, it explains what happens when behaviours or capabilities don’t meet your expectations.

You should stick to what your policy says and make sure it’s a visible document. Not just something that you accompany with your employee’s contract when they first join.

If you don’t have any HR policies in place, it’s never too late. Check out my tried and tested policy templates for small business leaders like you 📑

And don’t forget my DISCIPLINARY TOOLKIT for when employee behaviour becomes unacceptable.

GET HELP TO LEAD LIKE A BOSS

On my website, you’ll see loads of blogs containing FREE HR ADVICE, plus an online shop to furnish you with all the tools and templates you need to run a team.

I also run a leadership programme to help small business leaders to lead like a boss. Take my 10-second quiz to see if it could work for you.

TO SUM THINGS UP THEN

❤ Kindness is a super-lovely quality to have. But, you need additional skills and personality traits to be an effective leader.

👀It’s hard to know if your people are really screwing with you, but there are signs to watch out for.

💪Being assertive is about being confident in expressing what you want from your team.

😬 t’s also important to create professional boundaries. Otherwise your decision-making will be skewed.

🗣 Creating a culture of feedback is one way to assert your authority.

💰 And, providing ‘carrots and sticks’ shows your people there are rewards and consequences for their actions.

📑Don’t forget to follow what’s in your HR policies when it comes to disciplinaries

🙋And of course, there are heaps of ways I can help to strengthen your assertiveness, without ridding you of your kindness.

Feel free to book a free consultation with me if you have questions, or I can help you in anyway. 

Mandy Hamerla

Mandy Hamerla​


Virtual HR Director & Leadership Mentor. I create game-changing HR & Hiring Strategies for ambitious small businesses in the UK and support you to lead your team with confidence. Check out my shop to download HR Templates & Contracts designed to make life easier. 

​www.modernhr.co.uk