Posted by: BadBoss | 2008-11-26

Trial Periods

I hope you can assist me. I am the sole owner of a very small auditing firm, with a few huge problem regarding staff. When doing interviews, I do a few tests by examining them orally on the basics that they need to know, and if they answer correctly, I take it that they are trainable, or that they will be able to handle the work. At interviews, I go into extensive detail on what is expected, what are their capabilities etc. I normally start staff out on a 3 month trial period, under contract. The contract explains their remuneration, as well as what is expected from them. The contract is also explained to them in detail, and they have the choice of accepting it or not. I do not pay my staff badly, especially, as most of them are part-time-students, or people with no formal tertiary education (My company can' t, at this stage, afford qualified staff). I also handle all training myself.

My problem is, that, usually, I appoint someone based on the interview, and after phoning their references, if I am happy, then I sign a trial contract. Most people i' ve appointed this way, either don' t want to handle the work I give them (procrastinate during the day, with no productivity), or it comes out that they lied about their basic knowledge (eg typing, filing or using excel on a computer). I especially have a problem with filing staff, as they seem to loose documents, throw out important papers, or file things incorrectly. This creates a huge problem, as most documents are important, and need to be accessed when needed. Most of the staff I appoint, resign or just disappear before their trial period is over, and some I need to get rid of if they are causing to much problems. Since I' ve started my company 4 years ago, I have only had 6 people made it past their trial period, out of the 45 I' ve appointed. Of the 6 that made it, some later stole money out of the petty cash, lied about the work they' ve done, refused to work or became violent, when they feel they are in a position of power because of their permanent contract. I also have a problem with staff just taking off whenever they want to, before the work day is over, staff coming to work drunk and staff abusing the company resources. What can I do? How must I change me recruitment process, in order to get hold of the correct staff. I do put a lot of effort into their training, and spend hours each day in practically training them. Some of them just seem to not be interested and others just don' t listen to me, and ask me the same questions EACH day. I feel that training them doesn' t work, as they use me as a reference guide when needed, to just get by, but they don' t learn out of the things I teach them.

I give my staff time off as needed, don' t deduct days they didn' t show up for work. I even pay their petrol to get to work. I used to even supply some ot them with housing at my own expense, letting them live in an house I have, out of which I could have generated an income from rent money. I try to be a good boss, and help where I can, but it feels that my staff are walking over me at times, and as soon as I write out a first warning, or give them a verbal warning, they pack up and leave.

Am I a bad boss? What can be done to effectively run my staff base?

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Our expert says:
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The best way torun staff during the trial period is to have as much feedback as possible. It often works to have constant weekly meetings so that people feel free to say whatever if necessary. Obviously if someone is not coping or they are committing a disciplinary problem, then one needs to take that in hand immediately and hopefully they will leave on their own.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Ash | 2008-12-04

Hey bad boss - you' re way too nice for these people and doing yourself a great disservice. Allowing people to walk over you is not helping either party.
I think your recruitment process should include fairly specific questions about time management (prioriting work to meet deadlines), handling of conflict, how they take instruction etc. You should also try to get a sense for how they would execute a job (are they looking for explanations etc. to understand the requirements 1st). I often find that I' m able to weed out unsuitable candidates at that time. I' ve got great sample questions if you need a few. Also, if you' re not good at reading people' s body language, get someone to sit in on the interview.
I agree with Michael on the trial period. Again, being nice is not helping either party. Be specific during that period about what' s not working and what your expectations are. Don' t forget to document it, even if it' s just in a notebook with the dates of the discussion and some notes from that meeting. That way you will not end up at the CCMA on charges of unfair dismissal.

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