For Anonymous: Labor Relations

>> Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Anonymous said: And I hired a group of workers paid them in full tried to help them but because of the economy and other issues I had to pay them less. I gave them notice and they are still not happy. They say nasty things about me the hurt my business and worst part it is not true. Any ideas?

Well, let me start with the disclaimer that I've never owned my own business or had employees. Any advice I'd give specific to that would be speculative. But, for all I don't know about that, I do know what it's like to fight a reputation.

First, I have to say, although I know the economy is tough, I can sympathize with your workers to an extent. The circumstances may have been beyond your control, but it was likely beyond their control as well. If they performed their services as agreed, I can understand being disappointed to receive less than expected or be laid off. Losing one's job makes one feel disjointed, unappreciated, and can mean real financial hardship, even ruin. That's tough for anyone and it's hard to be objective when that happens. I don't know the circumstances and I'm not judging - just explaining that they have a side in all this and, whether you could help it or not, it's hard not to feel sorry for people who were promised something and didn't get it.

But I do know about making commitments that, despite your best efforts, you couldn't meet. I once had to declare bankruptcy and it was the hardest thing I think I've ever done. It was necessary, likely unavoidable, but I still haven't quite forgiven myself for it. You can't pay money you don't have. In trying not to fire people, you can go too far, as this article about Japan demonstrates.

So, despite your best efforts, there are disgruntled ex-employees saying disgruntled things and ruining your business. What can you do?

Not much, I think. If they say demonstrably untrue things, one could sue them, but I think that would not only be a huge hassle with no returns, but you'd advertise those same lies much more than they are likely to be spread by the employees alone. It's almost like legitimizing the lies.

But it limits your options.

The best advice I can give you:

  • Do an honorable business.
  • Make every effort you can to make your remaining employees happy.
  • Be careful to make only commitments you are confident you can meet.
I'm a firm believer that, if you remain honest and true, even the worst lies will eventually lose their power. That doesn't mean it will be easy, that it won't be painful, that you won't have any long term effects from the stories.

But, if you are patient and consistent, hopefully your clients will realize that you do a good business and they'll either recognize the lies for lies or will consider those stories sour grapes.


  • flit

    do an honourable business... geez, that's timely for me right now.. think Lou & Ann missed that day in school

  • Aron Sora

    I know of a podcast called Get it Done Guys's Quick and Dirty Tips for getting things done, these episodes may help you...

    On a unrelated note, Stephanie, you should try to join this podcast network. All they do is answer questions from their readers and they have a huge audience... The last network you where in may have left a bad taste in your mouth but, while looking in from the outside, these guys seem great.

    I hope I helped

  • Stephanie B

    One thing I love about this blog is how often my commenters provide additional insight and resources. Thanks, Aron.

    (Good luck with your situation, flit.)

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