Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It has been the one holiday that no one is complaining that they got a gift that they do not like. I do not have to go around town and try to find the right gift for that picky someone. More importantly though Thanksgiving is the one holiday that everyone comes together and is thankful for something. At least that is the rule at our house. We make some of the best comfort food and everyone has a piece to contribute.
Because it is my favorite holiday I never thought I would be faced with a decision that would affect each future Thanksgiving. It was several years ago now that I was challenged by an employee about his pay check being shorted. From all the evidence I had in front of me he did not work where he said he was to be paid for. I told him he was paid correctly and again he challenged me on my choice.
After investigating further into the situation I discovered that he did work the location and times he stated. It turns out that someone else had made a mistake or way lying. My manager! What was going on. After a week of investigating, going over months of schedules and site forms it turns out that my manager was embezzling from our business.
It was not a simple embezzlement. He had been with us for many years. He met his wife while working with our company. They had begun growing their family while working with us. He was a full-time manager and she was on staff part-time working different locations. From my investigation I discovered that in each case where there was a discrepancy in pay she was listed as the person working the location. She had put that she worked those locations on her time card to be paid for it. He had listed her as the person in the electronic scheduling program that I used to pay the employees. Together they were now stealing as a couple.
I could not believe it, two of the best employees were not so great after all. Three days before Thanksgiving I brought the manager into my office and confronted him with my evidence. He admitted to everything. Stealing from other employees, clients and the company. I had to make a hard choice!
I made the choice to take the pay out of their paychecks for the stolen wages, I then gave them both their final paycheck and released them from employment with our company. (aka fired them both.) They both were fired right before thanksgiving and I think it was harder on me than it was for them. I did make it clear that this was an opportunity for them to make some shifts in their lives. And if I ever heard about them in another circumstance like this I would give my evidence to the attorney’s.
I can appear to be hard on people and have heard I am pretty tough. That is the face of my kind of business. I have to be tough to stay in business. When you are in business and manage employees you have to put your personal feelings aside and make the right business decisions even at the price of not being liked. Every year since that Thanksgiving week that couple comes to mind. I have a moment when my inner critic will say to me “You fired them right before Thanksgiving – How could you?” Then I remind my critic that it was one of the hard choices but it was the right choice!
You will make some hard choices while in business. They may sting when you do make them. However, if you are paying attention to what is best for the business they will be the right choices. You will get though not being liked. Know that sometimes being the business owner is a thankless job. No employee has ever come and said “I am so glad you started this company and keep working on improving it for me” usually you will hear things like “how could they change that on me” or “no other company that I worked for did this”. Remember that no one else in your company is in your shoes. Get the best possible support from your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Small Business Administration (SBA), Chamber of Commerce and a great attorney.
I still enjoy Thanksgiving and it is still my favorite holiday. I think this experience has helped me to be more thankful for the people getting it right around me and the business. It has helped me to see that we all make mistakes and to make sure to have checks and balances in my business. You may have to make the hard choices and you can enjoy the lessons along the way for doing what is right.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving and be thankful that you can make the right choices even when they may be hard. Be blessed during this holiday season.