Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Assistant's Mistakes Put Her on Probation

DEAR HARRIETTE: My assistant has dropped the ball so many times of late that I don't know what to do. Every time she makes a significant mistake, I tell her, because I was taught that you shouldn't let things build up. I tell her what she did that didn't work, and I tell her how to do it right. She says she understands and then does it the wrong way all over again. I have offered to get her training support, which she didn't take me up on. This past week, her mistakes cost my company money -- never mind how much it irked me. She doesn't listen. I would hate to let a young person go, but I don't know what else to do. -- Wit's End, Jacksonville, Fla.

DEAR WIT'S END: Schedule a review meeting with your assistant. Have a list of concerns written out that you need to address with her. Give her a timeline for when you need her to have mastered the various points on the list. Make it clear to her that if she is unable to be proficent at these tasks, you will have to let her go. Essentially, you will be giving her a probationary period to get her job performance together.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I left my purse on the table in my house the other day, and when I went to pick it up, I noticed that my money was missing from my wallet. I am 100 percent sure that I had money in there. I even know how much it was. What I don't know is who would have taken it. I have two teenage children, a younger child, a nanny and my husband. I hate the idea of accusing the wrong person of theft. I am also very concerned, because if one of my family members would steal from me, what does that mean? Or even the nanny? I need to get to the bottom of this if I can. What should I do? -- Violated, Washington, D.C.

DEAR VIOLATED: A note to you is that you should no longer leave your purse and wallet in full view. Reducing temptation is smart.

Rather than accuse anyone of theft, call a family meeting -- including the nanny -- and explain what happened. Say that you had X amount of money in your purse, and it disappeared. Point out where your purse was sitting when you believe someone took the money out. Ask the assembled group if any of them took or borrowed the money. Do your best not to use an accusatory tone. It's harder for you to get someone to speak up if it seems that a punishment is imminent.

If you can, use humor. You could ask if someone took a loan out of your purse. If so, now would be a great time to repay that loan! Think of ways to lighten the conversation. If you are able to get someone to admit to taking the money, you can privately explore the situation more to find out why the person thought that was a good idea. It can become a teachable moment.