Arguing With Key Member of Your Company

Discussion in 'General Industry Discussions' started by Sean Adams, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. Sean Adams

    Sean Adams LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,597

    Wrote this for my blog, figured I'd post here since Ihave been getting a lot of employee related questions lately...

    Ahhhh, isn't it fun when you feel trapped? As a business owner it is not a feeling we like or are accustomed to. We are the owner, President, founder, chief, big cheese as well as the Alpha and Omega. We are in charge. We call the shots. We make the rules. People are supposed to do what we say. Afterall, it's our signature on their pay checks, right?

    Well, if this is how you think, unfortunately it is time to come back to earth. Can a lawn and landscape business owner run his company this way? Sure. Will it be hard for him/her to keep good people around for an extended period of time? Probably.

    In the end I understand this is not supposed to be a democracy, but it certainly doesn't have to be a dictatorship either. This is especially true when you encounter a situation where an important or key member of your staff disagrees with you.

    Pride is a funny thing. As a business owner you need to know when to put your pride in check. If someone who is a valuable part of your operation has an issue with you, there are certain ways to handle it.

    There is a difference between someone breaking the rules and being a jerk, versus an argument over difference of opinion. It doesn't matter who he or she is, if they are trying to take advantage of you or the business, or they are doing something harmful to the business, this certainly does not have to be tolerated. Point out what they are doing wrong, explain it will not be tolerated or dealt with, and if it continues they will need to seek new employment.

    If a key employee feels that something should be done a certain way, or they do not feel they are being treated properly, or they feel they are worth more than they are being paid, then you must be careful how you handle the situation.

    1.) Employee wants to do things differently: If this is the case, give them the floor. Let them explain themselves and why they feel this way. Ask them to break down how their way is better for the business. If they can do so, then thank them for the insight, make the change, problem solved. Don't feel that it should always be your way or the highway. But if their opinion on how to do things differently is not what's best for the company, explain this to them. Explain in as much detail as you can that the company's obligation is to provide a service, please the clients, provide gainful employment for its staff members and make a profit. Make them understand that their way of wanting to do things does not fit but you are always open to their suggestions.

    2.) Employee feels they are not being treated properly: If this is the situation, sit down with that employee in private and ask them to clearly point out examples of how they feel they are being mistreated. If any example given is accurate, apologize. Explain that your intent was not to mistreat them. Explain that you will make an effort to not let it happen again. However, if the employee's examples of being mistreated are unfounded or insignificant, explain to the employee that they need to understand that they need to lighten up and understand that no personal harm is intended and this is how things work within your organization. If they cannot deal with that, then try and find a way to amicably end the relationship.

    3.) Employee feels they are being underpaid: Well, this is common with most employees. Just about everyone alive who works for a living thinks they should be paid more. But sit down with the employee. Go over their compensation package. Explain what they are being paid and why they are being paid that amount. Ask them what they prefer to be paid. If it is a key member of your staff and you can pay them more, it's probably time to loosen the purse strings. But if they employee's performance does not warrant a pay increase, explain this to them as well. Explain what he or she can do to make themselves more valuable to the company and in the process, potentially earn more money. At this point you will either see a motivated employee who puts forth the extra effort, or you will quickly see a decline in performance and attitude and you will need to let them go.

    No lawn and landscape business owner wants to see an important piece of the puzzle walk out the door, but in the end, you are running a business and you have to do what is best for the company. If that means swallowing your pride, then swallow. If that means parting ways, do it.
  2. CL&T

    CL&T LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 493

    I agree that your advice is spot on however when I read your title I thought you were going to address problems with partners and other "key" people that often make up a business. When partners disagree on important company issues or just don't get along something has to give and often it's the company.
  3. Kelly's Landscaping

    Kelly's Landscaping LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,725

    The first example is interesting because there has to be a point when you you just shut them down and their power struggles with you. Iv been at this 23 years and there are certainly areas that you Sean have me completely out classed and know way more than I will claim too. But when it comes to efficiency on the job site and how best to attack a project even you will fall short. Yet somehow employees with 1-3 years of "experience" and I say that sparingly, feel they know it all and it is annoying as hell going into detail about how they are wrong for the 50th time.

    I doubt if over the years iv even heard 3 good suggestions on how to do something better and more profitable then the way I had laid out. What seems to come out is they either have a serious issue with authority and therefore wish to feel that had some power. Or they tend to be extremely lazy and throw out one dumb idea after another that while it may save them personally a few moments in the end some one has to pick up their slack and cover for their inferior workmanship. I suppose that means iv yet to have that "key employee" who can actually think on the job and see all sides before he speaks.
  4. grandview (2006)

    grandview (2006) LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,465

    Other side too is,if the boss thinks he knows everything, then maybe it's time for you to leave and work somewhere else.
  5. NC Greenscaper

    NC Greenscaper LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 447

    I like these points. I know I often feel challenged by thier sometimes, "I've got a better idea comments". Sometimes I let them roll with thier idea, just so their ego bent out of shape. Most of the time, I tell them, "I like that idea, but let's do it the way I say".
  6. Sean Adams

    Sean Adams LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,597

    I have learned over the last few years especially with technology and a younger generation that can be very innovative at times, it is always worth hearing them out. I have taken suggestions, implemented them and they failed miserably. Makes me feel like I know what I'm doing. Other times I have taken suggestions, convinced they will never work, gave it a shot, and sure enough, I had a nice big helping of humble pie.

    Point is, doesn't hurt to listen, innovation and making changes is never a bad thing as long as it fits within the vision and purpose of the business.
  7. snomaha

    snomaha LawnSite Bronze Member
    from midwest
    Messages: 1,269

    I think conflict can be healthy for any company as long as there is alignment at the end of the day. If employees follow you blindly you run the risk of "the emperors new clothes".

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