‘It is what it is’ . . . but it doesn’t have to be!

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Leigh Olsen

By Tradie HR director Leigh Olsen


How many times have you heard “it is what it is”, and wondered what that actually means?

“You’ll have to pick up Dave’s work as he’s rung in sick again — it is what it is, sorry”. “Those suppliers are always late with their delivery — it is what it is”. “Oh don’t worry about Ian, he’s always grumpy on a Monday . . . it is what it is.”

Too often it is used as an excuse to justify why someone has not done something, or to explain away bad behaviour.

I remember going to a job where everyone, and I mean everyone, at the site felt too nervous to ask one of the employees anything before 9am.

This particular employee was holding the whole site to ransom by their behaviour and unreasonable demands. When I mentioned it to another person in the team, I was told, “oh that’s just the way they are — it is what it is.”

I remember thinking this has to stop, so at 8am I went over to this employee who told me “don’t speak to me before nine, and certainly not before I have had my coffee”. I’m like yeah, nah, not happening on my watch!

After a couple of conversations and some coaching, that person came to realise what they were doing was not appropriate and fair to their teammates, and the behaviour stopped.

 

Understanding why a good thing changes

With more than 25 years working in human resources across a range of industries and companies, there’s not much I haven’t seen when it comes to how people behave in the workplace.

This includes staff repeatedly calling in sick (but where the pictures on Facebook tell a different story), to sleeping on the job, or to even stealing toilet paper — I kid you not!

I’ve encountered falsifying company documents, fighting, and turning up to work under the influence. The list goes on. While it can certainly make for some good work stories at the end of the week, it’s not the behaviour that team members, managers, business owners and customers want to see or experience.

I had a client recently who hired a permanent employee to carry out maintenance checks on his clients’ properties. Everything went well for a year until one of the clients phoned the boss to ask if he knew that “Joe” was offering to do cash work on the side, behind his back?

My client was frustrated — actually he was devastated. He asked me to speak with Joe, and I found out that he hadn’t got the pay rise he was promised six months back.

He also felt his boss never took the time to get to know him or even check in to see how he was doing.  A good reminder that there are always two sides to a story.

Being in trades is a tough industry — it’s competitive, it’s huge hours, it can feel lonely, and there’s little support.

That is where Tradie HR can help with getting the HR essentials in place so that workers feel supported, and owners can sleep easy at night knowing they have the right systems and processes in place to deal with the demands of their people and their industry.

 

Getting it back to good

What my experience has taught me is that it doesn’t matter if you have an electrical business in Whangarei, a plumbing company in Nelson or a construction firm in Gisborne — if you don’t have the HR essentials in place you are potentially missing out on getting the best from your teams.

Some of these HR essentials are:

having contracts that are written in plain English and that legally comply,

having job descriptions that simply explain the role and what’s expected, and

having policies that are necessary to ensure that everyone, including your contractors and subcontractors, have clear expectations, are treated fairly, and that everyone in the company shares an understanding of what is, and what is not, acceptable workplace behaviour.

I understand that sometimes these are missed because owner-managers are rightly concentrating on growing their business and sometimes forgetting the essentials.

Or, as Kevin Mullany from KVN Builders in Kumeu told me: “I’m just too busy quoting jobs and working with my guys to be thinking about contracts and policies. I know they are necessary, but I would rather just focus on my business.”

Tradie HR’s goal is a simple one: We are focused on making it simpler for owners and managers to grow their business. If your staff aren’t your greatest business advantage, they should be.

We are here to help you in all areas of HR, so pick up the phone and give me a call so someone can finally help ease the load when it comes to dealing with your people.

Tradie HR can help you get your people stuff right and avoid you ever having to say “it is what it is.”

For more info, visit https://tradiehr.co.nz.