Help! I’m being held hostage by my bookkeeper!

Linda LaitalaBusiness, ManagementLeave a Comment

Which of these statements fits your situation best?

• My bookkeeper stinks. I don’t know why I haven’t fired his/her a**.

• My bookkeeper is okay, but he/she makes too many mistakes. I’m forever finding one thing or another that needs to be fixed.

• My bookkeeper is great. He/she is well trained, accurate and has the best interest of the company at heart.

One of the most frequently raised issues in my CEO roundtables is how to avoid being held hostage by an under-performing or non-performing employee. Here are some bits of wisdom gleaned from listening to owners counsel each other:

1. If it feels like you’re being held hostage you probably are and action needs to be taken. “If only I’d taken action sooner.” is a common lament.

2. How will this impact my business – what’s the best thing to do for the company? Should the person be reprimanded, moved to another position, trained (or re-trained) or let go? Often, the best thing for the business is to part ways. Once in a while though a reprimand can be a wake-up call and things improve.

3. Where are you going and what kind of people do you need to take you there? Often the hesitancy to take action is because the employee has been with the company for years. They’ve worked hard to get you to where you are today, but they may not be dealing with the growth, the change and direction your business is going. Again ask yourself, “What’s best for my business?” In addition ask, “What’s best for the employee?” If you decide to hire someone new, how will the new employee be different from the ones you’ve hired in the past?

4. Maybe your brother-in-law is your problem and you are stuck. As tough as this sounds, you still have options. Visualize where you want your company to be in three to five years. Compare that to where you are today and identify what needs to change to move you closer to your vision.

Paint a picture of the future and think about how many people will be positively impacted: your employees, your customers, your family, your employee’s families. Now start working toward that future. You’ve done it before (you created the company after all) and you can do it again. Feeling excited?


“Being a hard worker and accomplishing something are not necessarily the same.”

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