One of the hardest things about being a boss is making unpopular decisions.
I had one such experience last month.
One of my contractual sales staff had a personal emergency. The night before, she fought with a live-in partner and they almost got into a physical altercation. According to her, her boyfriend (and father of her child) tried to hit her and missed, hitting their 2 year old child instead.
Just to add context, this sales staff is very dramatic, and this is not the first time she’s cried wolf. Usually around salary day, she pulls this stunt and threatens not to come to work. We didn’t think that this episode was any different.
The problem was she brought her 2-year old child to our jewelry store.
Earlier that morning, she asked her supervisor if she could, and the supervisor told her no.
Our company policy makes it very clear that external parties, including children, should NOT be brought to the place of work. They are distractions and are not a good sight to our customers wanting to come in to buy gold and diamond jewelries. What’s more, many of our showcases are made out of glass, so kids as well have no place in a jewelry store. It is not a playground. It is a place of business.
Regardless, the staff brought her kid anyway since it was salary day, and there was no one to take care of her child.
Consequently, the other two sales staff with her helped her take care of the child.
When I found out at 5:30 pm that a child was brought to my store, I was livid! For one, the mall has been opened since 11:0am, and nobody told me. My supervisor didn’t follow standard protocols of reporting. Despite saying no to the staff asking whether to bring the child to work, when she saw that the staff still defiantly brought her child, the supervisor didn’t let me know.
If I would have known that the child was there, I would have sent the mother and child home so that the mother could settle her personal issues.
As it turned out, this debacle created some negative PR for me.
To many sales staff, I looked like a heartless b*tch with no consideration for single mothers who had no choice but to bring in their children when they cannot find people to take care of the kids for them. For them, my reaction was an over-reaction. How wrong was it that a child was there?
To be honest, this represented a conundrum for me….
Ever since I’ve managed this business, I have been very clear about my rules from the beginning. Work is work. Family time is family time. There is 6 days of work, and one day of rest. If I hire you, I expect you to keep personal affairs in order and don’t bring it in the office. And to those who are good performers, the compensation is very generous.
“In the Philippines, it’s not all about the money, Bonita,” my mother-in-law said. “You need to have a heart for all the single mothers . That’s why, many single mothers stay long with me, while your staff keep on leaving.”
You see, in my parents-in-law’s company, bringing children to work is okay if there was an emergency.
They also own a jewelry company but are very lax with their policies. As long as you reach their quotas, you’ll be fine. Consequently, you can see their sales staff painting their nails, straightening their hair and yes, bringing their kids to work. It isn’t very professional, but actually, many Filipino companies are the same anyway. It is very chill to work in the Philippines, and so many things that aren’t allowed abroad, are allowed here.
It’s notable to say too that their sales has not been performing as much as it should. Since my parents-in-law are semi-retired, they have left the bulk of operations to their staff. As a result, things have become very lax and complacent, including their sales.
I later on realized that my parents in law didn’t know the gross regularity their sales staff are bringing their kids to work. While my mother-in-law only knows that the kids are brought during emergencies, little did she know, some of her staff bring their kids almost every day. One sales staff even bring her child in a stroller, and the stroller is always in the selling area!
Fact of the matter is, if you’re not hands on, a lot of hanky panky happens…
So as it turns out, my parents-in-law’s laxness shed light on how strict I actually was with my staff. As news trickled down to their staff, I once again strengthened the reputation of being a tough, heartless boss, a reputation one doesn’t really like to have.
It’s a moniker that’s admittedly hurtful to me.
For one, I have been very clear of my policies from Day One. Upon interview and orientation, we ask applicants whether they’re okay with our policies, and through time and experience, we have learned to filter our people who cannot keep their professional and personal lives separate. I don’t think I should be criticized for executing through the rules of which I have been clear of from the first day.
Two, I actually think that the sales staff defiantly brought the child even though she knew this was NOT allowed. Defiance is NOT good for our business.
Since we operate a business, it’s crucial that we make decisions for the good of the entire company, and not just for a single person. If I had allowed her to bring her child, others will follow. This is the same story as my parents’-in-laws where they allowed one or two mothers brought their kids, only later on to find out that their staff bring their kids on a regular basis already, and not really when there’s an emergency.
I cannot make an exception with one person — especially since after analyzing her situation, I really believed that this was a false alarm and was not really a personal emergency (since she had the option of staying at home that day).
That is one reason too on why nobody called me when the kid was at the store. They thought that if this was normal for my mother-in-law, it was also okay for me.
Three, my business is a well-oiled ship. So far, we have more than doubled the number of stores since I started managing it. Sales has been positive and stabilizing. My staff are also performing better and lasting longer. Half of my staff have been with me for more than a year, a small accomplishment since I’ve only managed the business for 3 years.
So it is unfair to be criticized for carrying out policies I know that are good for business continuity and for the good of all.
Regardless, I am now known as the boss b*tch.
Fair or unfair, my reputation now precedes me, and the staff of my parents-in-law rue the day when I will manage them (as if it would happen!). They now think I am a heartless, hot-tempered, and unreasonable boss with no consideration of their personal lives.
The sad part of it is, it is true.
I actually have little patience with people’s shenanigans.
When I started managing this company, we were in the red. We had a continuous flow of people, many of whom have only been hired the week before. My then supervisor Claire would have one staff go AWOL and the next day, she would find another trainee to take her place, only for that trainee to go AWOL the following week.
If the company needed money then, my parents-in-law would bail it out and deposit another Php 100,000 that it needed to pay the rent or the payroll. Our rents totaled to half a million pesos, leaving us barely enough to pay for our stocks, our manpower, and our overhead.
When I came into this company, it was clear to me that we had no choice to make it work. It was to be my family’s bread and butter, and if you understand Chinese culture, you must know that failure is NOT AN OPTION.
As a daughter-in-law entering the family business, it is imperative that this company succeeded. There is no choice for me: If this company failed with me at the helm, my parents-in-law loses respect for us. That despite my stellar corporate experience and MBA, I cannot even bring this company to the red. If I cannot make this company work despite great odds, it showed that all of my past achievements was just for show, and I should be better off being a home-maker than being a boss.
So I had worked hard to make it work.
I strategised with my husband and aimed to double the number of stores to cover up our overhead. I hired, fired and then hired staff who can perform and perform consistently, and then rewarded them handsomely when they do well. The first time I gave my supervisors a bonus, they cried.
I set up the company rules and made sure everyone was in full agreement of them. People who disagreed with the rules were filtered out.
I made sure there was an effective system of inventory, hiring, accounting and the likes. It was imperative everyone did their part and helped me build a bigger ship. As everyone worked hard, our sales grew and the company stabilized. We continued to hire people and rewarded them according to their hard work. Gradually, as the company grew, the people’s lives became more and more stable. As their income became more stable, people can now start making long-term plans in staying with the company.
Now after 3.5 years, we are finally in the black.
Sure, we still have some loans to pay, but they are manageable. As long as the company continues to sell and grow, we can pay off these personal loans, money I took out myself just so that the business can grow.
Everything that happened to us the last three years is really a product of everyone’s hard work, good intentions, and talent. God has been looking out after us as well. Even today, I do not understand how we managed to build everything brick by brick. And how through time, we have allowed the cement to harden, solidifying our grip in our market.
So such criticism of me being a heartless b*tch is unfair.
Dude, I would not work this hard if I was a heartless b*tch.
I would just hire staff who I can order around, and then command them to work. I will try to lie, cheat and steal from my customers and my staff to get the profits. And I will not care about the company too much. If I was a real heartless b*tch, I wouldn’t care if the company lived or died. Why should I? I was set in life either way… by marrying my husband, I knew we would never starve.
Being very considerate and letting your staff run your business is very irresponsible for a boss to do. It’s like having your kids decide when to play or when to go to school. You are the boss and the parent, and it is important that you set the tone, and guide people to success. Because the bigger the company gets, the more you can share with your team. And the more you can share with your team, the more people you will help.
How many families have we helped just by managing this company? Back them, we only had 15 staff members. Now, we have around 45 staff. That’s 45 families we are supporting, 3x the number of staff when we first started.
So say what you want.
I know we are on the right track.
And if this means I need to be unpopular, then so be it.
Because that’s what a boss is — someone who makes the right decisions, no matter how unpopular they are. Because if I’m not there to police my staff, then who will? And I would rather be an unpopular boss who people think is heartless, than a truly heartless boss wannabe who really doesn’t care about the future of her people and her business.
Do you agree or disagree? Comments appreciated.