Don’t Take It Personally – Dealing With Tough Employee Requests

In any workplace, one of the struggles many business owners deal with on a seemingly daily basis is, “doing what is good for the business versus managing the requests of employees for what they believe is good for them.”

It is those questions like: “Can I take tomorrow off, I know it is short notice, but I really need the time?” or “I am heading up a volunteer committee, would you mind if I used the printer to print off materials?” or “My dog is really sick, so I was wondering if I could bring them into the office tomorrow…I promise she will be really quiet?”

These types of requests, put any leader in conflict. On the one hand, you are simply a person and most people like to be liked. We like to say yes and to be seen as helpful and supportive of the people around you. On the other hand, you are running a business and if you let this person do it, then the question of “where do I draw the line” comes into play. If I let this person do it, will others expect the same thing? If I say “yes” this time, will they expect the same the next time? If I don’t let them have their way, then will they look for employment somewhere else?

So how do you handle it? Here are a couple of thoughts and suggestions to help you along the way

  • Rules – Some companies have formal rules, policies, collective agreements, etc. If there is such a thing in place, then follow them. In this moment a rule could seem harsh and unforgiving but at the point in time when the rule was made, it was for a reason. It may not make sense to you today, but uphold it. If there is something needing to be changed, do so when you can look at the entire ramifications of the decision rather than dealing with the emotions of the situation.
  • Emotion – Just because you are asked a question does not mean you need to answer right away. When you face a decision where there may be some conflict in answering, it generally comes with a little emotion. In order to look at things logically, you need to let go of the emotion. Taking a step away gives you the time to think through whether the request makes sense and what the ramifications are to you, the other staff and the business.
  • Never Hurts to Ask – Remember this will be the premise to which your employee asked you the question. By not asking, they already had an answer however, in being bold enough to ask, there is a chance (although it might be slim) they could get a different answer. It isn’t personal, they are just hoping to improve the odds.
  • Put Responsibility Back on Them – It is easy to feel like you are being requested to solve a problem in order to grant the request (adjust time schedules, take on additional duties, etc.). If an employee is asking for something out of the norm, put them to work figuring out how it could happen. Make them do the work in terms of getting others to change schedules to cover them, getting tasks done early, etc. They need to be responsible for the work they do, so make them do this.

There will be times when you are going to need to say “no” and your employees, just like you, often don’t like to hear it. Remember, at the end of the day, it is your job to look out for the well being of the company, so over the long haul your employees have jobs to come to.

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