Am I An Unreasonable Boss?


LawnSite Bronze Member
Pekin IL.
As my company grows, I am becoming more reliable on hired help to really step up and do things right. I am very thorough in my training and jobsite explanations as well as equipment operations, expectations, etc.

Last year I had one full-time guy and one part-time. Mainly they did the labor work. Shoveling, digging, moving materials via wheelbarrow, etc. The work that rhymes with my name (Mitch). And it worked good. I did the planning, supervising, perfecting, detail work. Employees rarely touched any major equipment (besides the mowers, trimmers, etc., no tractors, skids, etc.)

The one good snow storm we have had this year, I had a guy with me in the plow truck and two guys blowing condos. After about 12hrs or so, my guy was just complaining!laimed when he started working for met that "he was one heck of a worker, could work all night and really was just a tough guy" Well he started slowing down to the point where I could scoop a lot, salt it and catch up to him on the sidewalks and blow past him. I started getting on him saying sarcastically that "id love to have ya around to keep me company, but I can't pay you to fall behind" He told me he'd pick up the pace and we moved on. Then it got bad. He was just complaining and I told him to "pick up the pace, we can't waste any time!" He then told me and I quote "if you would get out of the truck more often, we'd get this done quicker". I lost it. I told him that if i didnt keep my butt parked in that truck, we'd still be on the first lot and that he is hired help to shovel and de-ice sidewalks and that the fact that I even have to get out of the truck is ridiculous and that he will not be working for me during the summer" BTW, there was some profanity in there, I try to be professional, but after 20+ hours of plowing, my tolerance level is no longer

Next is another one of my guys, a good ole boy. He's really handy, good with a lot of things (cars, general handyman work, etc.) An all-around good helper! We are doing landscaping right now (well, what we can) due to the lack of snow and decent weather and he is experienced enough that I can leave him at a job and I can go do bids, errands, etc. with no babysitting. He has actually ran a few of my jobsites because he has proved that he can think for himself and really do what it takes to get things done. Or so I thought.

We were tilling a job we just had a large amount of stumps ground out at and I rented a tiller. I left him there and went on with my stuff. He calls me "belt came off tiller, I think when i knicked a root, it did it" Puzzled, i told him to put it back on and proceed. Then a minute later another call "it did it again". And with any other employee, I'd be there helping but this guy is smart enough to do this small job with no babysitting. He then proceeded to tell me that whenever he engages the tines, the tiller dies and isn't working right. I come all the way back across town, fire up the tiller and it works fine, no problems what so ever! I am fumed at this point, and tell him that if I ever have to come back across town for something stupid like this he will be looking for a new job. I really laid into him telling him how stupid he is making himself look with this and how I will not continue to pay him the above average wage for my employees if I'm going to have to hold his hand. He finished the job no problems besides the belt did keep coming off but i did notice the belt was really really worn and we were working on some really unlevel, ground that was jerking the tiller around a lot so thats expected.

I really hate babysitting especially the guy in scenario #2 because he knows better and he doesn't need me to hold his hand but still insisted I come all the way back across town to do so. Its hard to try to grow my business when I have to hold these guys's hands and they can't think for themselves.

Am I being unreasonable with either of these situations? I don't think I am, but I want to hear everyone's opinions.



LawnSite Silver Member
Yes you are. On #2 you said you had to go to the job site and when you did it worked no problem. Then you said the belt did in fact keep coming off. If I was him and you ran your mouth to me like that, I would have walked away and left everything sit.

As for #1, after 12hrs I would be slowing down too. You riding in the truck pushing and salting is not physical labor so you SHOULD be able to catch him and "blow by him" as you say. Same case as #2. Talk that way to me and I'm gone.


LawnSite Bronze Member
Charlestown, RI
Yes you are. On #2 you said you had to go to the job site and when you did it worked no problem. Then you said the belt did in fact keep coming off. If I was him and you ran your mouth to me like that, I would have walked away and left everything sit.

As for #1, after 12hrs I would be slowing down too. You riding in the truck pushing and salting is not physical labor so you SHOULD be able to catch him and "blow by him" as you say. Same case as #2. Talk that way to me and I'm gone.
I totally agree!


LawnSite Bronze Member
Jackson, NJ
I would tend to agree with the majority. AS the owner, you have to be able to have a little more patience with the hired help, and you have to be able to put yourself in their shoes. Like maybe if you had thought about #1 from #1's point of view BEFORE you made your comment, it wouldn't have resulted in HIS rude remarks. I know it gets tough sometimes because we (owners) really want to see the job completed and we don't often enough take the time to see HOW and with WHOM it's getting done by. Sometimes, we just need to relax, take another breath, re-assess.


LawnSite Senior Member
Sorry, but 12 hours shoveling is too much. Hire another guy and send them in a separate vehicle. It won't cost much and allow both of you to work quicker. If you can't afford to pay 2 guys to do 12+ man hours of shoveling -you need to adjust pricing

Unless you are paying $16 an hour+, nobody is going to work in the wet and cold for 12 hours doing physical labor. Let alone 15-20. That's insane.

side note: don't pay shovelers $16 an hour, for the most part they will be unreliable after a few pay cheques as they don't need the money. Higher pay doesn't fix everything


Unless you strongly believe the guy is lying, the tiller was probably acting up when hot. Belt stretch, something warped, who knows.

Part of being a good boss is realizing when things are not working. Sometimes you have to see, man, I rented a shitty tiller.

Nothing is more frustrating than working with equipment that isn't working properly - especially when your boss denies it.


yelling at employees, regardless of how long you have been plowing, how stressed you are is not good. They will instantly loose respect for you. Probably start listening and will act as you treat them - like children.


LawnSite Bronze Member
Western NY
I'll give my spin on this. I dont have employees but I can add some perspective on this from being one a long time ago. Working for a friend of mine he had all the hustle and go you do as the owner. I worked hard and he never said a word to me but he was on a different level. We had some other bums that would work with us from time to time and he would let them know they weren't doing good but not by screaming, yelling, or purposefully degrading someone. If they didn't work out he let them go and easily found others to work. He now has guys do most of the work without him. Took a while but he found them.

As an owner now and using some part time help I can say I'm now where my buddy was. Why? Well now its my business and my problems. I used to pray for rain days mowing with him, he would get so mad when it rained. Now I know why. Because my phone wont be ringing when there were problems, his would. Now mine does when I have problems or I have to push other projects back. I get it now, but I did work hard when I worked with him and he always had me back each year.

If someone doesn't fit with your needs you need to find someone who does. And if someone does really good work most of the time and has a bad day or two why would you "lay into them". Pulling someone aside and talking to them can do wonders than verbally abusing them. Would you work for someone like that? Like the guy with the tiller. You say he's good with a lot of stuff and it was weird him having this problem. Instead of calling him stupid you could have said "Hey man what's the deal today? Usually you're really good with this kind of stuff? What's going on?" Maybe you would've gotten an answer to that. It may not be something you want to hear but it could explain things. Plus you even said the tiller's belt was coming off. If you were using that tiller and the belt came off every 5 minutes it would be back at the rental place for a refund. He's stuck with crappy equipment that makes the job worse and you offered no help to make a garbage situation better. I'm not saying you need to be Mr. Nice but everyone wants to be treated with dignity even if someone is telling them their job is on the line. As far as the long day you in a truck and others doing physical labor. How about bringing them some hot coffee and something to eat for 5-10 minutes. Heck they are helping you complete your job allowing you to be in the truck. It almost sounds as if the job was to big for you to take on in the first place. Maybe you needed 1 or 2 more workers to reduce the workload?
Moral of the story...... if you treat your employees like garbage how do you think they'll portray your business?? Your employees ARE your business. I dont care how much shine you yourself put on for your potential customers, your employees will tarnish that shine if you don't have respect for them.

Look at some of the more successful companies on this site. They talk about respecting their employees so they can do good things and put forth a great image for their business. The also acknowledge the high turnover rate but it is what it is. You have to be the guy that your employees can get answers and help from, not a tyrant leading a dictatorship.


LawnSite Bronze Member
You do sound kind of ignorant i think. Boss's can't do all the grunt work because you pay guys to help you but you need to get out there with them sometimes just to show them that your willing to be in the ditch with them , they will respect you alot more and appreciate working hard for you. And you shouldn't scream at a guy that's been shoveling all day for you. I know some local guys landscape boss's that are very lasy and think they should't be doing any of the pshyical labor anymore, you need to appreciate and work hard with your crew and they will respect you too. Remember there helping you make lot's of money, think about how they feel. Now sometimes employees are downright lazy so you will have to make that call.


LawnSite Member
Durham, NC
yes- unreasonable- you could have switched out with the guy in #1 just to give him a break and then you also would have had a better sense of conditions.

In #2, he might have been afraid of you yelling at him b/c the job took longer to complete b/c he had to stop to fix the machine and he wanted you to see for yourself- you could have shown him trust by saying that you understand and just to do the best job he could wiht the quality of machine that he had. He was probably afraid of not doing the job you expected but due to no fault of his own.


LawnSite Fanatic
Read the book "Theory R Management" and see for yourself what you did wrong. I'm not saying it's the veritable bible of management but it's a good read about respecting employees.

I'm also not saying I'm the best supervisor out there...far from it.

But I'll give you a list of why my crew respects me.

I know what I'm talking about but I don't brag about my knowledge.
I see what my guys are good at and what they like doing and I let them do that as much as possible.
I teach as much as I can.
I don't take breaks except for lunch, and unless it's super hot .
I'm clear about the expectations of the job.
I challenge my crew to expand their skills and do better work without breathing down their necks.
If there's a tough job that some of my guys need to do while I have to do the "easier" job, I either switch up the work as much as I can, or if they don't have the skills to do my work, then I put my work on hold and help them for a while.

I've been an employee (and still am) so I know what laborers want in terms of being treated with respect.

If you don't change you ways now, you're on the way to becoming the boss that everybody hates.

Just my opinion....