Hiring, firing and quitting are unavoidable events in the automotive repair industry. Everybody hates to deal with these aspects of the business because it can be risky on both sides of the table — not just monetarily, but emotionally, as well. I have seen war veterans more open talking about bloody battles than some shop owners and technicians are dealing with human resources issues.
At one shop I worked at, one of the senior techs decided to leave for a warmer climate. The rest of the techs played out a million different scenarios in their heads of how to get promoted. It was like a soap opera or mafia movie.
It was only fueled further by the owner playing out his scenarios between interviews and closed-door meetings. During the process, no one in the shop knew where they stood with the owner. Honestly, everyone was afraid to ask.
I am not saying the shop owner was a bad guy. In fact, I liked working for him. But, he left a lot of things unsaid, and many were afraid to discuss their future with him for fear of jinxing their chances at advancement at the shop.
Eventually, he hired a well-qualified technician for the position from a local new-car dealer. It was the best decision for the business and the future of the shop. But, there was one technician who was hurt by the decision and became a morale problem at the shop for two months. He would show up late and take long lunches. He would also twist your ear every chance he got about the new guy and the mistakes he was making.
I can still vividly remember the Friday he decided to give his two-weeks’ notice. The guy was about 6’6” with a large barrel chest and powerful stature. I could tell that something was eating at him all day. At 4:58 p.m., he made his way to the owner’s office. His walk was stiff and labored like his feet were encased in concrete. The guy was a giant, but he moved like a scared animal stuck in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle.
Through the office window, it did not look like a blowout, but like two very uncomfortable people trying to dance. It was about the most they had communicated in the past month. Over the next two weeks, there were a lot of averted gazes and apologies between the two. Everyone could tell there were a lot of regrets between them about how they handled the situation.
Being able to communicate one’s expectations and goals is perhaps the most difficult task in a person’s work life. But, having this freedom is critical in getting the most out of your business or employment. I am not saying that you have to get all touchy-feely, give out gold stars or draw smiley faces on the repair orders. But, make sure that the paths of communication are open so problems can be solved before they blow up.