Question: Dear Luise: My husband and I own our own business and my mother-in-law has worked for us for over a year. At first, everything was great – it seemed liked she really had our and the company’s best interest at heart. Over the last several months, I have received complaints from customer that she has been rude to them and they didn’t feel like their business was welcomed. My husband and I have worked hard at having the best customer service in the industry. She comes to work and doesn’t do any work that I ask of her. She just wants to give her opinion of how the employees should lives and how we should run our business. I cannot work with her any longer, but my husband feels if we let her go it will cause problems in the family. I really don’t know how to let her go and still get along. M.
Answer: Dear M.: First, you and your husband have to be on the same page. Is he willing to lose his customers and hard-earned reputation, sink the company, go under and close the doors in the name of family unity? If so, don’t cross your MIL…let her do her thing.
She is using her relationship to you as the basis for power and position when she has neither. It’s your business…you built it and you are in charge.
It sounds like you may have failed to define and set up guidelines when she came on board. (For instance, it’s imperative that she does what she’s asked to do.) That has to be corrected. If the business means enough to you to rectify your mistake…face the music as follows: Write her a carefully thought-out and detailed job description, present it to her (privately) and have her sign that she’s has read it and understands it. Then let her know in writing that she will have a performance review in three months and will be put on a formal three month’s probation at that time unless she meets the requirements as outlined. Tell her, also putting it in writing, that if she fails to perform to your satisfaction during probation, she will be terminated. She needs to initial and date everything you present to her and receive copies. (Not initialing is insubordination and she’s out.) It’s a business and she’s an employee.
She may be furious and quit. That’s up to her. Running the business is up to you.
If you want to be more elaborate, (and less focused on your MIL), explain to your employees that you are writing job descriptions for everyone and will be doing performance reviews on an annual basis. Process her first, so they know that you are going to be fair. If anyone else is currently out of line, follow the above procedure. Blessings, Luise