The Price of Negligence

I have a 30+-year old assistant who has been with me for two Christmases. She is a single mother to a young boy, and was left by her boyfriend of 7-years who impregnated and soon married their ugly yet flirty neighbor.

When I hired her last November 2014, she was depressed given her love life. She was dark-skinned, a bit overweight and had low self-esteem. But I hired her because she seemed capable and had a high test score. So I figured, why not give her a try?

Over the last two years, she was able to pull herself up. She found a hunky man from OkCupid, who worked as a truck driver, and through her salary, was able to sustain her son who was now living with her mother in the province.

Unfortunately, my assistant had a tendency to be forgetful, and neglect to finish things that I’ve asked her to do. As low self-esteem is hard to remove no matter how hard we try, she found herself distracted and left many things undone.

The problem is, every position in my company held a scope of responsibility. Her job was to organize, record and file company documents, and to ensure a steady supply of applicants to man our branches.

The problem was, she was weak in filing and have a tendency to put documents all over, forgetting them until they are needed. Here were some of her worst offenses:

  1. She did not collect our accounts receivables for one year. This happens when she forgets to request many of the credit card payments from the bank, and hence, these remain uncollected for many months.
  2. She misplaced our sales ledger for two stores, which has their sales records for 4-6 months. Consequently, we are struggling to track on whether we’ve received all the money for the sales for the missing months.
  3. She did not followup with our store construction bond properly, leaving us with no leverage as we try to renegotiate our rents with a mall.
  4. She forgot to send an important email to apply for a government document. This documents take more than a month to process. As a result, we might be heavily penalized for the mistake. The penalty is heavy and is even more than 2 months my salary.

It troubles me to talk about this, as she’s nice and a loyal worker. She stays late, works without complaint, and gets along with many people in the office, having been one of the veterans. What’s more, she’s a breadwinner to her still dependent son.

However, as I rack up all her many mistakes, I wonder how much more can I bear before I have to let her go? The amount of uncollected checks came up to over USD 10,000. I am shaking my head how I can collect this amount when these amounts should have been collected more than a year ago.

It is possible that she stole money and misplaced the sales ledger. Without the sales ledger, it’s a struggle for us to check if we’ve received the monies from these transactions.

As I list down her mistakes, it becomes clearer to me that I’d have to inevitably let her go.

It breaks my heart that she is the breadwinner and I’d have to send her on her merry way. However, the amount of mistakes she makes is damning, and I don’t know what to do anymore in order to cover her up. It is true what my in-law said, “If you tolerate incompetent and negligent people in your organization, no matter how nice or how loyal you are, you will still lose long term. You do them no favors by keeping them.”

I hate it when my in-laws are right. But sometimes, being a leader means you have to sacrifice the few for the many, and if I do not let her go, I would have to let other people go. Other people would have to be punished to answer for her mistake.

It’s not easy managing a business. You sometimes have to make hard decisions. Good luck to me then!

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