Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

New Employee Has Poor Work Ethic

DEAR HARRIETTE: A friend of mine referred a woman to me for a job. I have so much respect for my friend that I hired his referral without checking any additional references. That turned out to be a bad idea. This woman has worked with me for three weeks, and other than the first few days, it has gone downhill -- and fast. I gave her an assignment, and she didn’t meet the deadline in her first week. When I asked her about her progress, I got excuse after excuse. She was supposed to turn in two reports by the end of week one; I have yet to receive a full report. I got only a couple of pages of notes.

My experience is that people usually try to do their best, especially at first, because they want to make that 90-day mark and get benefits. I don’t think I can keep her. I feel bad because she is close to my friend. Should I tell him what’s going on? How can I get out of this and keep my friendship with our mutual friend? -- Awkward Work Situation

DEAR AWKWARD WORK SITUATION: Deal with the employee first. Talk to her about her job performance, and inquire as to why she is underperforming. Probe to see if she understands her assignments, or if she has outside factors that are distracting her from completing her tasks. Let her know that if she is unable to meet her deadlines within a specific period of time, you will not be able to keep her. Find out from human resources if you need to give her a formal warning since she is still on probation. If you must fire her, do that before speaking to your friend.

Next, contact your friend and give your update. He needs to know that his recommendation backfired. I caution people when they are making recommendations, because essentially, they are putting their reputations on the line. Tell your friend what this woman failed at so he will know in the future not to recommend her for that role. If he gets mad at you, so be it. Next time, do your own due diligence before hiring anyone.

Read more in: Friends & Neighbors | Work & School

DEAR HARRIETTE: My brother is wealthy. He and his wife have children, just like my husband and I, but they give them way more stuff because they can. All of our children are well-behaved, but my children live much more modestly. My husband thinks that my brother and his wife coddle their kids and aren’t teaching them strong life lessons. I totally disagree. Plus, I don’t think it’s my husband’s business to judge how my brother handles his affairs. Sure, we struggle, but that doesn’t mean that because they don’t, they aren’t teaching their children to be good people. How can I get my husband to stop with his judgments and let people be? -- Stop the Judgments

DEAR STOP THE JUDGMENTS: It can be hard to observe the behavior of people of different means from you and not pass judgment. Your husband seems to be struggling with his own values and resources compared to your brother’s family. You can’t change his beliefs. You can caution him not to talk about them around your children. Remind him how uncomfortable his comments make you. Stand your ground when he goes too far. You should also forgive him for wrestling with this uncomfortable situation.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Money | Etiquette & Ethics