Monday, November 14, 2011

Learning to be a Good Employer

I hired a lady several months ago to do some cleaning, organizing, and personal assistant type work for me.  It's been working out all right.  She was promised just 4 hours of work per week, but she's more than happy to work more hours, so it's fluctuated.  For the past week and a half, we've had her coming every week day for 3-4 hours.  Now, primarily she does cleaning, but she also runs some errands for me.

Today something happened that kind of put a bad taste in my mouth.

We're renting the front of our home again, and last week this lady offered to put an ad online for me, from her house.  So she did, sometime at the end of last week.  Honestly, I think the ad is terrible. It doesn't highlight features of the home, and it abbreviates too many words (which means it won't come up in searches), and she only posted it on Craigslist, which would be perfect, except that here in Utah people all use KSL, not Craigslist.  Of course, I have gotten absolutely no response from the ad.  Jeff says her ad is okay.  It's better than nothing, and I've been too busy to spend time on that, he says.  Well, that's fine.

Today, she asked me something to the extent of how did I want to handle payment for her placing ads.  "Oh," I said.  "Right.  How much time did you spend on it?"  "About fifteen minutes.  Because it was the first time, and I had to download pictures."  "Oh.  Hm.  Okay."

Now, here's the thing.  I absolutely do not expect this lady to spend a second of her time working for free.  I have every expectation that she will be paid for every bit of time that she spends working for us.  That's only fair.

Really, though, I kind of thought that I had already paid her for her time that she spent on the ad.  See, she comes late almost every time she works, and then she frequently leaves a little early, too.  So I thought maybe she left early and completed her shift at home the day that she placed the ad.  I didn't clarify that with her, though, so maybe I should have.

Here's the thing: I pay this lady cash every day that she comes to work for us.  It's a pain, and it seems nit-picky to reduce her pay when she works 10-15 minutes less than her scheduled work time.  What is 10-15 minutes if she's been working for 3-5 hours?  Plus, we don't have a time clock in our house, so I don't want to accidentally round her time down just because I wasn't paying close attention to the time when she arrived or left.  So I just round up.  To be nice.

There have been a few times lately where I've invited her to eat lunch with me.  On the clock.  Just to be nice.

And, she's kind of a slow worker.  We think we're over-paying her, by at least a couple dollars an hour.  It seemed worthwhile when she was helping organize, but now she's not doing organization, and sometimes we wonder what's taking her so long to get things done.

We also reimburse her mileage when she runs errands, at .50/mile.  It is obvious to me that she rounds these figures up.  For instance, today she drove out to one of the properties I manage to drop some papers off, and she told me it was 35 miles.   Google Maps says her drive was 23 miles, round trip.  That's an extra $6 right there. I wasn't really sure what to do.  The amount of payment in question is only $3.  When she left today, she she was short on her time even today by 10 minutes.  So I paid her the rounded-up amount for her hours today, and decided I would just think about what to do.

Here are my thoughts:
1. I should pay her the $3, I guess, since obviously she doesn't feel like she has been compensated for that time.
2. I should keep track of the time that she works, to the minute, and if it means she's getting loose change instead of dollars, well, that's what she earned.
3. Google Maps will be our authority for determining mileage.
4. If I feel like inviting her to eat lunch with me, I will, but I probably won't really feel like it.

Do I really need to be so militant about all this?  It seems a little ridiculous.  But still, really, she knows she comes late.  (She apologizes when she does.)  So, why would she make a big deal about a few minutes of work that she did from home, at her own suggestion?

I don't know.

What do you think, readers?  What is the right thing to do?  What would a good, fair employer do?


Dave said...

1) Pay her the $3.
2) Implement a timecard. Time in, time out. The only people that get offended by a timecard are those people that don't feel good about the work they're doing.
3) When I was hourly for the software company I work for I was only paid $0.35 per mile and I based my mileage on Google Maps.
4) Do you get a receipt for those cash payments? If not, you should pay by check. That way you have a record of what was paid for what and when.

It may put a little stress on the relationship at first, but remember "You're the boss."

Shelli said...

Um. Hire someone else. But if not, follow Dave's advice. You aren't her friend, you're her boss.

I can email you a time card I have set up in Excel that works to the minute.

I get compensated at my job for miles and I use Google Maps most of the time just because I forget to calculate. Sometimes, if I'm going somewhere new, I get lost, though. Or, I have to take a detour because of construction and various other problems that tack on a few extra miles. So keep that in mind.

I think it is tacky of her to charge you the $3 for time she's already been paid for, though.

Emily said...

Thanks for the suggestions.
2 - I worry that she will round her time on a timecard, but maybe if I am very specific about her being precise that will work?
3 - We started at .5/mile, and then went to .3/mile for a little while, and decided to bump it back up to .5/mile. Maybe somewhere in the middle would be better.
4 - Sort of. I keep a record as best I can of the time she works, what she does during that time, and then how much I paid her. I have her initial this record every day by the part that says what I paid her. We don't mind paying her cash as long as she signs indicating she received it. Frankly, I'm not sure that she even has a bank account, and I think she spends the money long before the couple days that it would take a check to clear.

Maybe I should write up kind of a miniature polices & procedures thing for us. It will make me look kind of mean at first, but when we hire other people later it will be nice to just have everything right out there to begin with.

Emily said...

Thanks for your thoughts too!

At first I thought maybe the mileage issue was because she was taking indirect routes or getting lost. But she's been to the property that she went to today, oh, 3 other times? And we talked about which route she was taking. So, no, I think she is just estimating, and estimating high.

Sure, you can send me your Excel time card. Maybe that's a good way to go.

The weird thing about the $3 was that it was all about 15 minutes. If it had been 2 hours, it wouldn't have bothered me as much, and I wouldn't have felt like "Oh, I've paid her more than 2 hours worth of work over the past months..." It's that it's such a small amount of time, and I give her that much extra about every other time she comes.

Brooke E said...

If you write up a policies and procedures thing (which I think you should do), just tell her you assume that hiring people will be a regular thing for you, and you hope she doesn't mind being the guinea pig for your writeup. (That's just a nice way to make it obvious you aren't being mean, you're just establishing your business.) Also, I second everything Dave said. but it's good she signs for it the way you're doing it with cash.

zookeeper08 said...

Try using the Federal Tax Rate for reimbursing mileage. That's what the organizations I've worked for have usually done.

Becky said...

I don't know if you are still dealing with this problem, but I thought I would put in my two cents. I would just have an honest conversation and explain your concerns. It creates greater mutual trust and understanding and it will give her the chance to change her behavior. People won't change if they don't know it is a problem.

Me again said...

If you don't like how she is placing the ad, TELL HER. Tell her your expectations. Otherwise, you'll just get more upset. Give her some expectations so that she can meet them.

Also, she could very easily be milking you for $$ on taking to much time for tasks. You may need to give her time limits(is that possible) or tell her what you expect to get done in what amount of time.

However, I think you may just need to start over with someone who is honest. This lady isn't.

And ditto on the timesheets, mileage, and receipts.