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By Paul Tulenko

The fact that jobs are scarce doesn't seem to have a place in what I call the 'You never told me that!' factor of employee- employer friction.

Getting people to do the jobs for which they were hired is a major challenge for any firm. Just when you get employees trained, they leave for another job; they feel you are picking on them; or they want time off to solve personal problems. What can an owner/ manager do to get an honest day's work for an honest day's pay?

The bad news is that problems with employees are not unique to small firms, they are ever-present; and just when you think you have one problem solved, another will pop up in it's place.

The good news is that solutions are available, and they are the same for businesses of all sizes.

There are three major areas of employee-employer friction and it is your duty to do what you can to minimize the stresses involved in each area.

Let's begin by defining employment as: The willingness of an employee to give up something he or she wants to do and behave in a manner specified by you in exchange for money.

The 'give-up' feeling is one side of the balance scale with the other being exactly what they 'will get' (pay) for trading what they want to do for what you want them to do.

There are three distinct parts of this transaction: what they give up, what you want them to do, and what they will receive (pay). If you do not very clearly define the job duties, you are well on your way to having a problem employee no matter what the salary!

The idea is not to see how few words you can use to describe a job or task, but how completely and accurately you can describe it. Spell out in excruciating detail the behavior you require to get the job done. If there are 10 tasks, there should be 10 sections. Specify all the details, including time due, resources available and other necessary information.

Money is part of the initial trade agreement and becomes important again only if duties increase or peers in other business are getting more for similar work.

Other than that, motivation comes from pats on the back, and those are often valued as highly as more money.

Frederick Hertzberg's 1960 theory of work force motivation (as modified by followers) got it right: "People work for achievement, power, recognition and a sense of belonging."

Translated, this means a pat on the back for completing a task.

Yes, I know it's the employee's "job" to do the task, but a positive word from you is part of your job. Praise employees when they do the job better, faster, use fewer resources or generate better customer relations.

It is not enough to give these approbations to just the employee; you need to do this in front of others, so use monthly employee appreciation meetings!

Lavish but deserved compliments can provide the recognition, the sense of belonging and affirmation of earning their pay for doing their job well.

It is clear that laws demand you separate the employees' personal lives from their work lives.

Make it clear to your employee that what happens in the employee's life outside the hours you pay for performance cannot and must not have any consideration in their performing the work for which they were hired.

I strongly suggest you make these facts part of a legal sign-up procedure.

As an employer, all you can do is make it clear that personal problems cannot be used as an excuse to not perform their job. You pay for certain work to be performed, and any and all actions you take are related only to that work.

I suggest you hire an outside employee assistance firm to solve these problems.

When an employee comes to you with a personal problem (or you go to the employee with a job problem that is explained by a personal problem) you have a place the employee can go to for help.

The above solutions can solve 90 percent of your problems.

For the others, we suggest you contact an employee-training company and explore some of their solutions.

Article courtesy of YellowBrix, Inc.

About the author: Paul Tulenko is a small business consultant based in New Mexico. Additional tips and suggestions are available at www.tulenko.comor call (toll-free) 1-866-TULENKO.

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