How NOT to Manage an Employee

When you hire someone as your employee they’re taking a HUGE chance on you.

Think of the literally hundreds or even thousands of other places they could work for. And yet for some lucky reason, they chose YOU.

Even though yes, you’re paying them. And yes, they have to do their job well to keep it, it’s basically a privilege to have people work for you.

That’s what I learned when I hired my first employee, Jennifer.

One month into the job, she quit.

I had tried to take extra special care to make sure I got everything right for her, so the only thing she’d have to worry about was doing her new job well.

The lessons are important because it wasn’t like I didn’t try!

But yet I still made mistakes.

So here’s what I screwed up that we can all learn from.

Mismanaged Expectations

When I interviewed Jennifer I said the job was 20 hours to start but would eventually be full time. The 20 hours was more of a “testing, learn the ropes together” period.

She understood this, but she also mentioned that she liked the 20-hours a week, and, while I didn’t fully realize it at the time, hinted at being okay at staying at 20 hours. She liked the flexibility, and she was recently married and wanted extra time with her husband.

To this end, she’d even recently turned down a full-time job with Yelp.

I was in such a hurry to get her hired that I glossed over this. So when a week into the job I asked if she wanted to come on full-time, she was kind of taken aback and wasn’t ready for it.

Horrible Timing

She also told me in the interview that she had a few vacations and a family reunion already planned for the near future.

Basically she’d work for me for a week, leave for a month, then come back and start work again. This turned out to be around the holidays, which didn’t help.

If I were doing this again, I’d just wait to have her start until after the vacation and holidays.

Pick Up the Freaking Phone

When Jennifer got back from her first trip she emailed me saying she had some concerns. Like an idiot, instead of picking up the phone to talk to her directly, I just emailed her.

She then took 2 days to get back to me. I was trying to be polite and let her take her time, but looking back it wouldn’t have been rude to just call. After all, she was working for me, and those were days when she should have been available.

I was so new that I was trying to be as flexible and easy-going as possible for her.

Mistakes, they happen!

Setup Employee Accounts BEFORE They Start

This one really irks me, because I did 99% of this great. You wouldn’t believe the time and money I spent making sure Jennifer had her email, payroll, and a bunch of other accounts all setup right, ready for her the day she started (Not to mention the legal hassle it is to hire someone remotely in a different state.)

The one thing I did NOT do, was get her a Google Voice number.

This was important because as a virtual assistant she’d be taking and making phone calls for clients.

It was on my todo list, not just something that I’d forgotten. I figured she was fine making phone calls with her cell for the time.

That was a poor decision.

Even if I had the best intentions (I’d happily repay her for any minutes used on her plan) she didn’t know that. I hadn’t communicated to her that I’d reimburse her or that a Google Voice number was on my todo list. So she naturally assumed that’s how it was always going to be.

It was just one more thing to make her feel uneasy and uncertain about. “Why is my boss making me use my own phone for work?”

It was a fair reaction.

Employees, Hiring, Mistakes

You can’t build anything great alone, so it’s super important to learn how to work with, hire, and manage other people.

That said, we also can’t let the fear of making mistakes get in the way of trying news things. You have to push on into the unknown.

I’m glad I did. Jennifer and I are still on good terms, and I learned a ton in the process of working with her.