Need help with employee issue

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by skinnydogz, May 10, 2008.

  1. skinnydogz

    skinnydogz LawnSite Member
    Messages: 33

    Ok, a couple factors first.

    1. We live in a small area (10,000) people
    2. Anyone who works is VERY difficult to find, as most people are retired and the ones who are willing to work, younger generation, already have jobs or don't live around here.
    3. Any type of quality workers are far and few between

    So, last week one of my employees was riding the BRAND NEW $7300 Bad Boy mower. I went over the general stuff with him. Told him to ride the open areas first in the cemetery until he felt comfortable riding down between tombstones, etc. After about 45 min. I was riding the other mower and I see him going down the rows. I go over to him and ask how it's going. He says fine and then goes on. After were done I ask if anything was hit. He says "no". The next day were riding a large residence and after awhile I see him loading up mower and looking under deck. Ask what's up he says he thought he hit a really small rock and just wanted to check under deck on everything and it was all fine. I let it go. Next day I change blades and blade is WAY bent. Then I ride with new blades and it sounds REALLY bad. I call him on it and he says he did hit a ground marker in cemetery. We go to cemetery and see marker is damaged. Basically he lied twice. Once never hit anything in cemetery and once about rock. Come to find out, spindle, yes spindle, is broken and needs replaced.

    Do I make him pay for it all. or do I simply not let him ride my mower any longer after hitting stuff twice and not copping to it until I find out. Right now he is basically the only guy working for me until 3 weeks from would you handle it????
  2. KGR landscapeing

    KGR landscapeing LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,544

    I am not huge leader type so employees r hard for me to deal with some times. no matter what you do stuff gets broken. One maybe its your fault for not making sure he had enough abillitys to be running this mower in that place. I stress this to my guys. If you break anything or mess up anything you need to tell me right then. Its alot easyer for me to fix it or get it taken care of if i am alertd of when it happens. So fix the mower who knows maybe you would of hit the marker your self build a relationship with this empolyee so you can make him more aware then u can hold him responsible
  3. wintergreenlawn&landscape

    wintergreenlawn&landscape LawnSite Member
    from CT
    Messages: 174

    I understand your situation, but i look at it this way. Is he a good kid overall? Was he cocky about it or was he scared &$#@less to tell you?? I bet he was terrified to tell you and probably would be more then apologetic if you approached him without tearing his head off? I was 18 at one time and I know I felt horrible when I broke something. IF hes the type that just doesnt care then fire him. If hes loyal and learns from his mistake then make him work it off, itll be a good learning experience.
  4. ALC-GregH

    ALC-GregH LawnSite Fanatic
    from PA
    Messages: 7,051

    Threatening to fire him or anything like that will only push him away and make him feel that he shouldn't tell you. Fix the spindle and have a comfortable talk with him, maybe over a beer or something. Let him know that it's imperative that you know right away if anything is wrong with the equipment. Give a few pointers on a watchful eye when it comes to hitting anything. Let him know, he doesn't have to get close to things and get every blade of grass. A trimmer will get it. In the end of the conversation, let him know that you'll cover damage as long as it's a accident and you report any issues when they happen, otherwise if you catch him in a lie again, he'll be responsible for the damages and possibly loose his job.
    Also let him know that it can happen to anyone.
    I bought a new Stihl chainsaw and the second shrub I took out, I hit a metal property stake hidden next to the shrub! I was pissed but accidents can and will happen.
  5. Greenery

    Greenery LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 512

    I'm pretty sure you can't charge him for it. You need to make your employees comfortable with talking to you. Maybe you need to read a book or two on how to interact with people.
  6. Greenery

    Greenery LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 512

    DO NOT threaten to fire him it will just put him in a defensive mode.
  7. skinnydogz

    skinnydogz LawnSite Member
    Messages: 33

    my only problem is that I let everyone know up front that when using my equipment, especially stuff like this and it gets damaged they are responsible for it....if he told me up front it would be a diff story I feel. It was that he acted as if he was smarter than me when I told him I bumped a couple and he said he did better than me and didn't hit a thing. He also is 42 yrs old. He knows better about the lying. He has also had a couple other issues with other jobs that he's done when I caught him doing personal stuff on my time and caught him.....Basically I am in a dilema though cuz right now, I need him otherwise I would can him or not let him mow. I just don't want him to know that. I guess I am asking would you make him pay for it or not.......Thanks eveyone
  8. wintergreenlawn&landscape

    wintergreenlawn&landscape LawnSite Member
    from CT
    Messages: 174

    oh hell hes 42 - Fire him, I thought he was young!! Hire young guys, a good many of them like the work and become very loyal.
  9. PTP

    PTP LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Tulsa
    Messages: 1,398

    Unless there is some good reason to do otherwise, you need to fire him.

    A hard working honest employee who makes mistakes can be forgiven. A liar needs to be fired no matter how good he is.

    You say that your business will be hurt if you let him go but your business can't survive with employees that are deceitful.
  10. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    This should have been handled at the time of the issue but at least you laid the groundwork by telling him he would be held responsible for damage. First you ask him if he remembers your policy about damage. You need him to tell you what the policy is not just a yes answer. Next you ask him what he thinks his responsibility for the damage should be.

    Then you ask him if the cost will be a hardship on him? Does he want the cost to be spread out over a period of weeks or how he wants to handle it. Offer to deduct hours so neither of you are paying the tax. Especially as an adult you are treating him with some respect and letting him take some responsibility for his action by choosing how the debt is to be settled.

    Next you have to address the lying issue. You simply cannot work with people with character issues. I always try and sympathize with employees

    "I understand you are embarrassed about the damage but it needs to be addressed. You could have caused more damage by running the equipment damaged. Everyone makes mistakes, I don't expect you to be perfect but I do expect you to be honest with me. We can't have this conversation again you understand that right? The next time we have a character issue I will have to let you go are we clear on that. I don't want it to come to that but you will leave me no choice. Now lets put this behind us and move on, Deal? " Shake on it and it is over with.

    This type of conversation keeps it from being personal and minimizes hard feelings. Its just business, he should understand that this is his final warning on that issue.

    Policies need to be followed by every one owner and employees alike. Just because you are the owner does not mean you get to decide which policies are to be enforced or overlooked. I think this is one of the biggest mistakes employers make. Employees wont follow rules if the owner does not. So as owners we need to be the most on top of our game. We can't be late, forgetting supplies, slow in repairing equipment etc. So as the owner you have no choice in terminating him or charging him for damage if that is the policy you have agreed to. You are just following the rules like everyone else.

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