Business Partnership Advisor
Together, we can fix your business and partnership problems
Chris Reich, Business Luminary
3 Things to Do If Your Business Partner Doesn’t Support You in Front of Employees
This is a very common question:
Chris, my partner never supports me in front of the employees. Yesterday, I had to put an employee on probation for frequently being late to work. She was late by over an hour for 4 of the last 5 days she was scheduled. After I left the office, my partner told her not to worry about it. He told her (late employee) that I was just in a bad mood. I can’t run a business with employees coming in when they want to and a partner that thinks it’s okay to be an hour late. What can I do?
There are 3 Things to do When Your Partner Doesn’t Support You In Front of Employees
Before I discuss the 3 steps, I want to say a little about this problem. It’s very serious. When business partners send conflicting signals to employees, it’s a sign that the partnership is breaking down. If you have a situation like this in your partnership, deal with it immediately. Once employees lose respect for an owner, it can be too late to fix the partnership and could lead to failure of the business.
So what are the 3 things to do if your partner conflicts with you with employees?
Step 1 Get Out of There Immediately
You cannot allow this to get out of hand in front of your employees. If you give an instruction and your partner contradicts you, leave the scene. It’s best to say something like, “It isn’t appropriate to have this discussion in front of Jane [employee]. We’ll make a decision when we [partners] talk later.” Then leave the situation.
Doing this gives 2 strong messages. You aren’t going to argue in front of an employee and the discussion isn’t over. The employee gets the message that there will be more said on the subject. If your business partner is a total jerk and continues to go against you in front of the employee, say it again, “we [partners] will make a final decision when we talk later.” Then be sure to get out of the situation. Leave the building if necessary.
The idea here is to stop the conflict and to let the employee know that it isn’t over.
Then move to Step 2.
It is very serious when partners allow employees to know when there is a disagreement about how to handle a problem.
Image Credit: Unsplash
Step 2 Meet with Your Business Partner
Ask your partner for a time to sit down and talk about the employee situation. DO NOT JUST FIND YOUR PARTNER AND START TALKING ABOUT THE PROBLEM. It is crucial to let your partner know that challenging you in front of employees is serious and will not be tolerated. By setting a time to have the discussion signals how seriously you view this problem.
In my experience, I’d say that one big problem in most partnerships is that partners do not meet formally often enough. By ‘formally’, I mean that you should sit down and cover a list of items (agenda). When partners only speak together ‘in passing,’ problems always develop.
I prefer regularly scheduled meetings. When partners meet at least once a week and talk through a list of things that require input from both (or all) partners, problems rarely get started. If there is a disagreement over an employee, call a meeting.
It might be difficult, but it is essential: you must reach agreement when you meet. If your partner thinks the behavior is insignificant and think it’s serious, talk it through. Explain why you think being on time is important. But, also listen carefully to why your partner is willing to dismiss the problem as unimportant. Perhaps you are too controlling. If you’re upset that someone is 5 minutes late twice a month, you might have to adjust if the employee does an otherwise good job.
On the other hand, some people can’t handle confrontation. Your partner could be telling the employee that being late (for example) is not a big deal because he [your partner] doesn’t like confrontation. Pay attention to what your partner says.
If you and your partner cannot agree on how to address the problem with your employee, find a compromise position. For example, if an employee is scheduled to start work every day at 8 a.m. but consistently arrives at 8:20, change the schedule to have the employee arrive at 8:30 a.m. Do not schedule that employee to work a half-hour later. Instead, you save 1/2 hour per day on your payroll. That adds up fast, and your employee may prefer coming in on time rather than losing 2 1/2 hours a week. After a month, you can try going back to your original schedule.
Whatever it takes, do it! You and your partner must get back on the same page when it comes to handling employee issues.
Step 3 Let the Employee Know the Decision AND…
Finally, BOTH you and your partner must meet with the employee and explain the decision reached. The employee needs to understand that you and your partner are in agreement. In my opinion, it’s critical that both partners (or all) meet with the employee. It’s not enough for you alone to be the one to relay the news.
Like kids will do, employees will try to divide partners in their favor. The first time you hear, “he [your partner] said it was okay”, you’ll know you’re in trouble. The goal is to stop that before it goes too far.
And the “AND” part? In the future, ALL decisions regarding employee discipline and correction should be handled by both partners every time. Inform all employees that if they have an issue, they will be heard by both (or all) partners. If an employee approaches you with a work issue, you respond with, “let’s get Bill [your partner] and talk about this.”
If you can follow these steps, problems with employees dividing partners against each other will diminish.
If you cannot follow these steps, contact a mediator to help you conduct meetings together that don’t become rancorous. That’s a specialty and unique service that I offer. No need to enter a long-term contract for a big mediation. I will discuss things with all partners to facilitate alignment and then moderate a couple of your weekly meetings. Once partners are working together again, I step back.
Don’t delay. This could be a great year if you stop letting problems build up.
Chris Reich, Business Mediator
“Business partners need to present employees with a united front. If your partner is always painting you as the bad guy with employees, it is a serious problem.”
When the business partnership breaks down, the darker sides of the personalities come through. A dominant partner turns into a bully. A person who does not do well with conflict will withdraw. As the bully gets more aggressive, the pacifist withdraws further. Eventually, the bully gets so angry they are ready to lock the other partner out. The pacifist quits coming in. The next blowout is over money. The course is as logically predictable as what will happen to your car if you hit the highway with no oil in the engine. It will get louder and louder until the engine seizes.
I recommend that partners talk through a specific issue and then draft an agreement (called a resolution) that sets a policy. You can keep this in a binder to serve as amendments (or foundation) to your Partnership Agreement. In this post I’ll explain how to talk about things that bug you with your partner and how to draft a binding resolution to fix the problems.
Unless you are in some sort of political business, you should keep politics out of your establishment completely. Of course, you have freedom of speech, but we are in very contentious times and displays of political or religious positions might be off-putting to to your customers.