I hired an assistant about 7 weeks ago. She has been working out fine. Nothing really grandious but she is taking care of the things that I need. I was satisfied with her performance and with the things that we have been able to accomplish during this time. I felt like I was certainly finding my groove and increasing my productivity and effectiveness - two things that I know I thrive upon.
She has consistently been 20-35 minutes later arriving than we agree upon. She enjoys spending the next 15 minutes explaining (in debilitating detail) the reasons why she is late. They always have to do with her kids. Her oldest attends college 4 hours away and her daughter is about to graduate from high school. I long ago decided that she has no life of her own because she is too wrapped up in their lives as a mother. When she first decided to work for me, she said one of the reasons she was looking for something part time is because she needed something for herself. Several times she has requested to change the dates and times that she works and has left me in a lurch to accomodate her while I still pay her.
About two weeks ago, I had her working on a project of rather great importance for my business and during the two hours that she was here - she took 11 text messages from others on her phone. I had indicated during our interview that this was a flexible position and as long as the tasks were completed, I was pretty cool with times and such. I found myself growing increasingly frustrated at her inability to perform what I refer to as "self correct" and made a reference to her being able to concentrate and if her children understood that she "was at work". She didn't comment back and the next time the text came through, she picked up the phone and went outside for 10 minutes to take care of whatever it was. I did not include the hour that she spent on the phone with her kids in the time that I would pay her to work for me.
Friday a week ago, she was scheduled to work for 4 hours. She called me 10 minutes after the time she was to show up and said that her husband wanted to leave town early to go see their son at college so she would not be coming that day. She promised to make up her hours on Monday. I was irritated because I had several things that needed to be finished but figured that an extra hour or two on Monday would be ok to get them done before the deadline on Monday afternoon. I worked a bit on the project and completed other things that were necessary to prepare for the coming week.
Monday morning at 8:10, less than an hour before she is supposed to be at my house to work, my phone rings and she informs me that she is still in south GA. It takes over 5 hours to get from there to here. She wants to go into details that I think are too personal and frankly, sound a bit "out there" to me. I try to politely tell her that I have to go and she promises that she "will call me when she gets into town" after lunch so she can come to work. She knew on Sunday evening that she was not going to be home or at work on Monday. Why would she not phone me to give me more notice?
I knew there was no way that I was going to be able to accomplish what I needed to accomplish before the deadline without her help. Some might argue that I shouldn't have left it all for her to do but I am thinking to myself....what the hell is the purpose of an assistant if I have to do everything myself? I spent the entire day in my office on Monday, working as fast and and hard as I could to meet my deadline. It's a deadline that I had planned for over a week in advance but was missing an important part of the equation - my assistant. As I was working through the tedious work of my client files and adding people to my mailing list - I discovered over 200 erros in typing and zip codes and the spelling of names. The more errors I discovered, the more furious I became. The day that she took all those text messages was the day she was working on updating my client files. I spent an additional 2.5 hours correcting her mistakes and oversights. I was not happy. I spent a total of 12 hours in my office on Monday accomplishing the necessary task that came forward from the previous Friday and that were required for that Monday deadline.
She never called on Monday to say that she had arrived in town. She didn't call to say that she had been detained. She didn't call to say kiss my ass.
Wednesday morning came around - and she was on the calendar to work from 9-11 am. I figured surely that she would have worked out her kinks and been able to show up. At 11:15 am, I was fuming. I phoned her and was connected to her voice mail. I said, "I'm confused because last time I talked with you on Monday morning, you were on your way home from south Georgia and were to phone me when you arrived. I didn't hear from you. This morning, you were on the calendar to work from 9-11 and it is now after 11 am and you have not shown up nor have you phoned me. What gives? Please return my call" and I hung up.
She called at 4:30 PM and said, "Hi, it's XXXX, how are you?" As if nothing had ever happened. I said back to her, "I am busy right now. I'm packing the last items into my car on my way to a spa. Can we make this quick?" She must not have heard me because she went into shit that I wouldn't listen to my best friend tell me. All kinds of things that supposedly happened and I stopped her about 3 minutes into it and said, "I'm sorry - I said I was busy and I'm on my way out the door and I really am not able to have this conversation right now." She acted surprised and said, "well when do you want me to work again?" and I said, "I am on my way out the door right now and I don't have access to my calendar. I will have to call you." Then the conversation was over.
The negative energy to that call and the entire situation (even before the steroids) has not been good for me. The last assistant that I had started behaving like this and I got screwed good-fashioned. It took me months to recover from the damage that she did.
So here's where I am today. I know that there will be a phone call. I'm so out of my head that I am not sure what that phone call needs to include. Part of me wants to just say, "I don't think this is working out and I wish you well," without any explanation unless she ask. Part of me wants to have a dialogue about my expectations of the position, a realistic but not critically negative evaluation of the performance so far and the ways that I want that to change if she is to remain here (this would include my expectations that while I care as a human about her family and kids, that I simple do not have the time to be involved in such intimate details that I can neither affect or change and that I expect her to be on time and to go immediately to work on those task without interruptions from her kids and for the work to be accurate." Am I being unreasonable here? Are my expectations unrealistic for a paid postition? I'm sure there are other options; however, they escape me now in the Decadron fuzz.
MusicMan says that I am being unsympathetic. He also used the words unreasonable and intolerant when I said that I wanted to call her and tell her to just not come back. It has been established long ago that he is so much more of a softy than me so I would half way expect him to make that judgement on me in this case.
I am not playing here. I depend on this business (whether others take it or me serious or not) to support my family, to pay my mortgage, to pay down our debt, and to put food on our table and gas in our cars and tuition and rent for a college student. This is my career we are talking about here and if she isn't going to do her part then I will find someone else.
I want to have my head positioned correctly before I talk with her. I like to be as best prepared as possible. I feel like I'm working at a disadvantage because of the drugs. I feel like I'm at a further disadvantage because of my dissapointment and anger associated with her recent disregard for a positition of employment. Clearly, she would not have still had a job at a corporation had she behaved the way with them as she did with me on the past three days she was scheduled to work. And I don't think its that I'm not paying her enough because when we interviewed, I asked her what she would consider a reasonable compensation per hour for the outlined task that we talked about. She named a price and I countered with $2 more per hour for her. She was more than delighted at the time.
Any suggestions? I'm looking for things that I am missing. I'm looking to understand others. I'm looking to understand myself and how I can grow as a leader (and in this case, an employer). I don't want to continue like this but I don't want to have to begin this process of hiring another assistant again either. If I'm going to have to go that route - I want to know now so I can get moving ASAP and not be left still trying to find one in January.
Your thoughts? Try to be clear and direct - but nice because I'm dealing with a fuzzy head and raw emotions.