Series-"When a Household Employee is Holding You Hostage" 1 of 4: Knowledge
Well trained household employees are vital to the successful operations of an estate, but managing an estate in any role is complex, and 100% unique to your family. That is why a seasoned household employee who has some tenure with your family is difficult to replace because they are already trained, well established, and knows the complexities of your household operations. This industry is not like a corporation where within a short timeframe someone from the outside can be trained to take on a new role; in a professionally managed estate each year that goes by brings a deeper understanding of your particular families' household operations, and that poses challenges when seeking to replace an outdated employee, an inefficient employee, a toxic employee, or even a beloved employee who's time has come to an end. Being held "hostage" concerning human resources means you feel you can't resign or fire an employee without collateral damage and unpleasant consequences to your family. This is a large topic, so the items have been broken into a four-part series starting with the ways a household employee can hold you hostage based on the knowledge they have and some steps you can take to mitigate the situation before it becomes out of hand
The knowledge they have about your family or household operations. Outdated or obsolete positions happen in a growing estate. Maybe the household started with a 'Girl/Boy Friday' position (essentially a formal title for a junior errand runner and catch all task orientated position), and now the family dynamics are such that the household requires the skills of an administrative Personal Assistant. Someone with more knowledge and skill set who is capable of handling office related tasks and personal errands as well. Should the estate be forced to keep on the Girl Friday simply because they know too much about the family, or they know the ins and outs of the family dynamics and operations, and it would be too tedious to train someone for these tasks? There is a difference in being indispensable and not easily replaceable. The junior level employee feels they are "indispensable" but their skill set is easily replicated, it's just that the vast amount of knowledge they have acquired is difficult and time-consuming to onboard to someone new. True "indispensability" comes when an employee is "the total package" and their knowledge matched with their skill set brings real value to the position.
If an employee is hinting they should not be replaced just because they know too much, there are steps you can take to prevent feeling like you are stuck in a bad situation. First, a well-documented household procedure manual detailing all the duties and methods each task requires will go along way for transparency in the position, ease for turnover purposes, and temporarily assigning duties to other individuals on the staff in the interim before a successor can be entirely up to speed. Passwords, names and numbers in a well-managed database, vendor lists, and household preferences, etc. are all categories of information that should be routinely updated to pass on to a successor should the need arise. Second, a non-disclosure agreement should always be in place for anyone regularly working on your estate (both in-home and outsourced services) that should be enforced in perpetuity lest you worry about a potential breach of information about your family or estate from a disgruntled former employee.
In this particular example, there may be an argument to keep a junior level employee that you like and is doing well in a similar position as you restructure your organizational chart and reassign duties. If time and payroll budget allow, maybe an errand running position would free up your new PA to do more complex tasks, but perhaps you reallocate the errand position to part-time, etc. Be sure the junior level employee understands the need for the change, and get them on board in a positive way, or there will be infighting between the old timer and the newcomer because the old time employee may be vindictive and use their knowledge of your household operations to their advantage and take it out on the new PA. I've seen plenty of these scenarios go south, so it is essential to handle the news of restructuring and hiring new staff delicately. Communicating that the new employee is working laterally with the tenured employee until they are entirely up to speed is another way for both individuals to build trust and a winning team attitude instead of the new PA getting thrown to the wolves because the Girl Friday is upset her position has been reduced.
There are many creative ways to organize your household staffing needs, but don't let a bad situation hold you and your family hostage! If you need assistance restructuring your household team, resigning or terminating an employee, and/or determining what type of employees you need to be successful for your estate, please contact Luxury Lifestyle Logistics for a comprehensive staffing organizational chart analysis, and check out our home page and search for this series under the blog for the links to the corresponding articles.