Developing an Employee

When Do You Know Your Employee will never be an Asset?

We have done everything to help a new (3 years) employee fit in and grow professionally as our office manager.  We’ve provided professional education and certification, sent her to San Diego for industry training (paid for flights, meals and accommodation for her and her sister).  We try to include her in office social events and pay salary during time away for university finals week, Easter, July 4th, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Elementary projects that take time are met with multiple questions of the partners and willingness to either forego or hand off to one of the partners.   The zinger came this week when she told us she does not return coffee cups to the coffee area because of “boundary issues”.  It appears to me she does not aspire to be a part of the office.  The office actually runs smoother when she is away.  We participated in a work environment personalisis test and try to structure her work according to her strengths.

She is a sweet single mother working hard to finish a 4 year degree. She has the potential to be a valuable part of the office but after 3 years she is not where we had hoped.  After writing this – I think I’ve answered my question.

There must be some reason you and your partner have kept her on the payroll.

This is a problem many small offices face.  It is much easier to hire staff than to release staff.  But before you do, we ask you to try one additional approach.  Sometimes young hires lack basic maturity.  In some cases they have come from a home environment that has not fostered a work ethic IQ.  They know they need to show up for work – but not how to embrace the position.  It may also be she expects more from an entry level position.  It may be worth while to create a dialogue based upon your grievance / her grievance and review of your expectations / her expectations. 

Kathleen Bradley (2010) addressed the process of leadership development in law practices.  The process is text book and we see your commitment in the areas of opportunity, flexibility education and recognition.  Areas you may want to review / address are:

* Continuous tracking of employee engagement – transformational leaders may give too much flexibility to the employee neglecting important measurements. Set goals, measurements and track progress.

* Open and effective communication.  Structured office meetings are absolutely essential.  However, do not forget the powerful one-on-one meetings.  Have a topic/agenda and be prepared to listen.

We hope this helps – you have invested considerable time and effort in this young employee.  It may be well worthwhile to incorporate tracking and one-on-one communication before you make the change.  Please keep in touch.  Your problem is shared by many!

 Bradley, Kathleen. (2010). Leadership development: Should your firm invest in growing its leaders? Law Practice, 36(5), 38.