Hiring, firing and quitting are unavoidable tasks 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, and not just monetarily, but emotionally.
I have seen war veterans more open to talk about the most bloody battles than some shop owners and employees are about human resource issues that plague them everyday. It is like a taboo wrapped in taboo.
I remember interviewing a technician who had a great looking resume and he really presented himself well at the interview. It sounded like he could handle any repair. He was far from honest and I was to scared to call him on it.
On his first day, when he unloaded a rather small toolbox filled with no name tools out of the back or a Renault Fuego, I had a bad feeling.
By the end of the day, he had worn out his welcome by needing to be bailed out of several repairs and constantly asking to borrow tools. He was fired promptly at 5 p.m. I heard he pulled the same routine at several shops in the area until he realized that he should be in sales.
A lot can be said about honesty and openness when it comes to hiring on both sides of the table. Many times, expectations are set too high during the interview process on both sides of the table only to be deflated later with drastic consequences. If he would have been more honest about his skills, he might have been hired on the spot for the sales position we had open.
At another shop I worked at, one of the senior technician/diagnostician decided to leave for a warmer climate. The rest of technicians 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 own scenarios between interviews and closed-door meetings. During the process, no one in the shop knew where he 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, while flipping through resumes, he was like a kid looking at a model train catalog trying to figure out what would work with is current pieces, while never looking at the price.
People, careers and businesses are not toys. When you start playing games with people’s careers and livelihoods, they take it seriously and feelings get hurt.
Eventually, he hired a very 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 until he found another job. I can still vividly remember the Friday he decided to give 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, 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 and wounded animal stuck in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle.
Through the office window. it did not look like a blow out confrontation, but like two very uncomfortable people trying not to show any emotion, either good or bad. It was about the most they had communicated in the past month. The next two weeks, there was a lot of averted eyes and “I’m sorry” between the two. Everyone could tell there were a lot of regrets between them.
Being able to communicate expectations and goals of the business or individuals is perhaps the most difficult task in anyone’s work life. But, it 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.