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By Darryl Stewart

What to say when one of your staff does not feel like working

The infamous Night-of phone call.
The infamous Night-of phone call.

I was standing with a group of parents at one of my kid’s events recently. The woman next to me took a call on her cell phone. I could only hear her side of the conversation and it went something like this:


“It is only a shift swap if you have someone ready to swap with you.”

“Why can’t you make it to your shift tonight?”

“If you tell me now you can’t make your shift, an hour and a half before you are supposed to be there, you and I will be having a meeting someday soon that I guarantee won’t go very well for you.”

“Okay good decision, next time give me at least 48 hours’ notice and I can help you, or better yet find someone else yourself before you call me.”

“Thank you for being reasonable and responsible about this, you are a good person to work with Sherri.”

I had never met this woman in my life, but I had so many questions, I had to strike up a conversation.

Her name was Avril and she was managing the staff in a house for 2 deaf blind folks. She had over ten staff and she was responsible for keeping the team together and performing 24/7. I think she thought I was being critical because she explained that she used to be much kinder with new younger staff, but she ended up filling too many shifts herself and it really hurt her own family life. She also told me that the reason Sherri did not want to fill the shift was that she wanted to go out with friends that night.

Far from feeling critical of her actions, I thought she did a great job and I told her so. She set solid expectations, stuck to her guns, explained the consequences of not meeting her expectations and most importantly she asked why and took some time to really listen to the answer. She also ended on an authentic positive note with her staff person.

When dealing with performance issues with any of our staff:

• Make sure expectations are clear and agreed upon.

• Ask why each and every time expectations are not met and truly listen to the answer.

If you can get authentic answers to the why you can, like Avril did, decide how to handle the situation properly. Had Sherri said her mother/father/best friend was just taken to the hospital I am sure Avril would have handled things differently. Knowing that this was just a whim for Sherri, she knew she should be tough and hold her ground and she did it with style.

I think Avril did a great job, do you agree?

IBEX Payroll extends our profound respect and immeasurable gratitude to all the ancestors and keepers of the land on whose traditional territories our work takes place. We acknowledge that we are on Treaty 1 territory, the traditional gathering place of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene people and the traditional homeland of the Métis people. This land is sacred, historical, and significant. 

Every time we acknowledge this truth, we have an invitation and an opportunity to reflect on the wrongs of the past, what we do in the present, and what we can do to continually honour the people whose lands and water we benefit from today. 

This statement only acts as a first step in honouring the land we reside on and its peoples, and must be paired with education, understanding and informed action.