Article by Jane Tweedy, Business Advisor, Western Sydney Business Centre.


Many small business owners struggle with people management issues, quite often because they’ve never had to deal with them before. What happens when you have employee issues? How can you avoid them in the first place?

Identifying the problem

For this you really need to take a step back and be objective. Usually when an employee is having issues in the workplace, it’s not one-sided. There will be a number of contributing factors. With workplace issues it can be good to consider yourself in the employee’s position and think how it would’ve impacted you.

It can be easy when you perceive someone overall to be a poor employee, we don’t see the good they do, and we stop complimenting them. Consider how you’d feel if the only communication with your boss was negative or neutral. Would that make you want to be a good employee? No. Make a concerted effort to see some good in people, and offer specific positive feedback about what they do well.

Choose your words carefully

Be careful not to let emotion take hold and ‘lose it’ at the employee. You need to stick to facts and comment on what they do, not who they are. Attacking them personally will only have negative consequences, and could lead you into unfair dismissal claims.


Clarity – job descriptions and key performance indicators (KPIs)

You can’t say an employee is not living up to your standards, if you didn’t let the employee know what the standards were. You need to establish your expectations upfront, communicate and importantly agree them. Having goals that are unachievable are demotivating for most people. Including a stretch is fine, but not to the point where they think ‘what’s the point?’

Forming new habits

Sometimes you need to adapt habits in employees. For instance a tradie may take great pride in their work and be brilliant at installing a doorway and cleaning the workspace afterwards. However, you need to make it clear the admin and job log is an equally important part of their job.


Compliment them on the install, but let them know they must complete the admin too, to complete the job. To form new habits takes 21 days minimum of repetition. Assign pain and pleasure to the daily completion of the habit. For instance nagging is painful for most tradies. You could agree if they complete their paperwork they avoid the call. If they don’t do it they get the nagging call. To avoid the pain they will curb their habits. Note that some people work better towards rewards, but most people move away from pain quicker than they move towards pleasure.

 Resources for small business

Fair Work Australia has a vast array of basic resources available for business owners. There are many templates, guides, checklists and even videos explaining what you need to do. These are a great free starting point. However, if you want comfort that you’re doing the right thing then our Business Connect advisors can help you, and provide connections to human resource providers and employment lawyers who can review contracts and documents to ensure they best meet your needs, while not crossing the line.


Business Connect

Western Sydney Business Centre, offers 4 hours business advice at NO COST with a NSW Government funded Business Connect Advisor. We can talk about any concerns with your business or provide suggestions for paid service providers. Please book here now!