Your business is not a boxing ring

Dear Ken Keller,

It appears I have become a referee in a never-ending boxing match between my employees, figuratively speaking.

The disagreements are about stupid things. When an employee arrives three minutes late, six people are in my office complaining the latecomer should be written up or fired.

When someone leaves an empty coffee pot on the burner you’d think a murder has been committed.

People will go 12 rounds about the temperature in the office. It’s never been “just right.”

Office people complain about sales people. Warehouse people despise office people. Sales people argue with everyone.

I understand about fighting the competition but I had no idea I would be in this nightmare with the people that I have on the payroll. These are adults who are supposed to assist me in taking care of our customers.

Donald T.

Dear Donald,

What is missing from your company is leadership. You have failed to provide your employees with the basic tools that they need to do their jobs.

Your role is to help your employees succeed. When they succeed, your company makes money. When they don’t get what they need, they will become disagreeable with each other, because you allow it.

Those lining up to bring these issues to your attention are really asking for the ground rules (policies and procedures) to be created and enforced.

I doubt your competition would tolerate people arriving late to work. This cannot be an isolated incident yet late arriving employees remain on your payroll. Why do you permit it?

Your good employees are seething with anger. You should thank them, not complain that they want to talk to you about what is taking place. They are trying, unsuccessfully so far, to get your attention to the fact that there some serious issues you have failed to address. They want you to do something about the mess you allow so they can get on with helping you make money.

If you don’t do something about it, the only people likely to remain will be the ones your competition won’t hire. What does that say about your company and its future?

I bet your management structure exists in name only. You need to start separating yourself from the daily issues by hiring or promoting someone to create and enforce (or reinforce) company policies and procedures. You need to back what this person says and does, one hundred percent.

The cartoon character Pogo said, “We have met the enemy … and his is us.” Only the enemy here is looking back at you in the mirror.


Dear Ken Keller,

When my female employees return from vacation, I have flowers delivered to them at work as a way of saying “We missed you when you were gone.” They appreciate the gesture.

One of my male employees asked why he didn’t get something when he returned from his vacation. I laughed at him and said “Right.” Now he is angry. How do I make peace with this guy?

Ron F.

Dear Ron,

The antics of the Mad Men era were over decades before the TV show aired.

I’d say you are very lucky not to have been sued for discrimination to this point by a male employee. To avoid it happening in the future, visit every employee when they return from vacation and tell them they were missed and welcome them back to work. You’ll save on the expense of flowers and legal expenses.


Ken Keller is a syndicated business columnist focused on the leadership needs of small and midsize closely held companies. Contact him at KenKeller@SBCglobal.net. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of this media outlet.

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