Dear Abby: Shop owner reluctant to fire worker in personal crisis
Dear Abby: I own a small retail shop. One of my employees (I’ll call her Sara) has been with us for a number of years. Until recently she’s been a stellar employee. She has been through several traumas during the past year, including the death of her father, unexpected injuries and medical bills, and finding out that her husband had molested her teenage daughter and other girls as well. It has been enough to drive anyone over the edge of emotional stability, and she has been noticeably struggling.
Sara has seen a doctor and is seeing a therapist for this, but she’s still having a difficult time. These things don’t heal overnight. I understand that.
Brick-and-mortar retail pretty much runs on presenting a cheerful face, happily engaging with customers and answering their questions — something Sara has been emotionally unable to do. Customers have begun complaining to me about her moodiness and saying she has been ignoring them. I’ve talked to her about this a couple of times now, and each time she says she’ll do better, but she hasn’t.
Abby, she’s been through so much, I’m reluctant to add to her trauma by letting her go, but I feel I’m being backed into a corner here. Is there a solution I’m not seeing or something I can say that will help resolve this without having to let her go? There isn’t any work currently available that doesn’t require customer interaction, or else I’d ask her to do that.
— Bad for Business
Dear B.F.B.: You are a caring employer — more than most would be, considering the shape that retail is in these days. Talk to Sara again. Explain that you are receiving complaints from customers and what they have been saying. Give her another chance to improve. If one of your other employees can cover for Sara for a week or two, let Sara have a brief leave of absence to regroup. However, if the complaints persist, let her go, because what’s going on isn’t about her or you, it’s about the health of your business.
Dear Abby: My husband is 67 and at least 45 pounds overweight. His breasts could fill a C-cup bra, and his belly looks nine months pregnant. Problem is, he wears running shorts around the house and no shirt. Everything hangs out regardless of whether we’re alone or have family visiting. It’s embarrassing.
When I ask him to dress or at least put on a shirt, he says it’s his home, he can dress any way he wants, and if someone disapproves, they can leave. That’s exactly what I am ready to do. I am disgusted seeing him look like this. Also, when we are alone, he tends to skinny dip in our swimming pool.
I’m afraid our 18-year marriage is over. For the last five years we have lived like roommates with separate bedrooms. Do you agree I should leave? He flat-out refuses any counseling for us.
— Looking the Other Way
Dear Looking: You are asking me a question I can’t answer for you. Because your husband refuses counseling doesn’t mean you couldn’t benefit from talking to someone, in light of the fact that you are contemplating such a life-changing decision. Please go, because the answer to your question lies within yourself.
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