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Insight for Handling Employee Discipline and Termination in Your Self-Storage Business

One of the most stressful parts of owning a self-storage business is managing your staff, which can include discipline and even termination. Here’s some insight to help you handle employee correction, avoid future behavior problems and terminate when necessary.

December 1, 2015

5 Min Read
Insight for Handling Employee Discipline and Termination in Your Self-Storage Business

By Magen Smith

Employees will make or break your self-storage business. I’ve witnessed a great manager bring occupancy from 75 percent to 95 percent in the course of a few months. Unfortunately, I’ve also watched a bad manager completely wreck a business, causing move-outs and low collections.

One of the most stressful parts of facility ownership is managing your staff, which can include discipline. What are some common reasons for chastising an employee?

  • Disrespectful attitude toward customers

  • Not following the rules of the company

  • Coming to work late

  • Closing the office during business hours

  • Not depositing funds correctly

  • Ignoring company policies

  • Doing personal things during work time such as texting, Facebooking or talking on phone

  • Improper use of a company vehicle

Obviously, behavior like this shouldn’t be tolerated. An employee should be disciplined with three goals in mind:

  • Stopping the behavior

  • Educating the staff member on why the behavior was wrong

  • Teaching the correct behavior

Training never stops when you have employees, and you should constantly teach and encourage them to do their best. If you do occasionally have to dole out discipline or even a termination, here’s some insight for how to handle the situation.

Handling Discipline

Discipline is best handled immediately, privately and honestly. As soon as you spot a problem, take the proper steps to correct it. Have an honest conversation with the employee and make sure he understands the rules. Why did he break them? Was he trying to be inventive and improve your process, or did he misunderstand what you expected?

Having this conversation privately will help to avoid your employee feeling embarrassed or threatened. Sit down and talk to him face to face, clearly stating why his actions were incorrect. Explain the exact action you want. Listen to the employee and make him feel heard. Be respectful of him and try to understand why he did what he did. At the end of the conversation, your staff member should know exactly what was wrong with his action and what the proper action should have been.

During your discussion, clearly document the issue and findings. Work with the employee to write a course of future action to avoid dealing with this issue again, and then sign the document together. File this record in his file in case you later have to terminate. If you hired the right person and trained him properly, you shouldn't have to correct the behavior more than once; but in case you do, this document will be beneficial.

After your private conversation, provide additional training to get the employee back on track. If you have someone who isn't performing at the level you’d like, spend time working with him one on one.

Your employees likely want to do a good job for you, and it’s your job to help them to do it. Giving them the tools for success will accomplish both your goals. Your staff needs proper training, documented processes to follow, and clearly explained desired outcomes and expectations.

Preventing Future Incidents

Once an incident has been resolved, talk to your team and identify why the problem happened in the first place. Was it due to a weak office process? Make sure your facility procedures are strong, understandable and clearly defined. Have an employee manual that can be used as a reference guide, along with a well-planned training process that will leave little room for mistakes in running your operation.

It’s worth the investment to teach each employee exactly how you want your business run so he doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel and potentially do something that would cause a problem. Every business involves people, and there’s no foolproof way to make everyone perform perfectly every time. However, you can arm your staff with the tools necessary to accelerate their progress.

If the problem stemmed from a miscommunication or misunderstanding, then as an owner, you need to fix it. Making sure your employees understand your expectations for the company is vitally important and takes time and effort. You need to be very clear and tell the story of your business multiple times. Employees need to understand you and your company culture so they know what is and isn’t acceptable.

Finally, if the problem was the result of a poor hiring, you need to work on that process. The easiest way to avoid future issues is to hire quality applicants who possess the personality traits you desire. Interview each applicant more than once and, if possible, have him talk to different people within your organization. Having a strong interview process will help you avoid discipline and turnover problems down the road. Some companies will even give their applicants personality tests to determine how they’ll fit into the company culture.

Steps to Termination

Sometimes it’s necessary to terminate an employee who refuses to comply with the rules. Your first step is to ensure all your paperwork is in order. Check your state laws for the exact documentation you need on file to avoid any legal issues.

Once you know the laws and have your paperwork in order, it’s time to let the employee go. Do this in private if possible. Consider having a policy that limits the amount of personal items employees are allowed to keep in the office. This will make it easier on everyone when an employee has to gather his things to leave the premises.

Prepare for the termination by knowing everything the employee has access to, including computer programs and door keys. Immediately afterward, deactivate his log-ins and change door locks. Turn off his gate code and notify banks or vendors of their termination. Termination is hard, so handle the process as delicately and professionally as possible.

All self-storage owners hope for the best from their employees and, generally, your staff wants to do a good job. Sometimes, people go astray. To avoid the need for discipline, set clear expectations, communicate openly with your team, provide ongoing training, and correct any inappropriate behavior swiftly and decisively. Follow the above advice, and you’ll have a happier, more productive staff that helps you meet your business goals.

Magen Smith is a former self-storage manager turned certified public accountant. Her company, Magen Smith CPA LLC, helps self-storage operators have more time and freedom, and managers become fantastic at their job. Services include monthly auditing, financial management, operational improvement and training. For more information, e-mail [email protected]; visit www.selfstoragecpa.com.

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