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dearmargaret I am a woman owner of a small business of less than 10 employees. I've been in business for over 20 years. I recently had to let an employee go for a number of reasons. Long-time, faithful customers had been complaining to me about her unprofessional demeanor, she has not been performing to an expected standard, and she doesn't get along well with other employees. I live in a small community, and word is getting back to me of the extremely negative things she is saying about my business. I've lost a couple of customers as a result. My stomach is churning because I dislike confrontation and would prefer to just let this die down on its own. Other employees are insisting I do something about it because it's their livelihood she is jeopardizing as well. How can I accelerate the speed at which this situation dies out without initiating a confrontation?
Loathe to Confront

Dear Loathe to Confront: First of all, congratulations on keeping your business open for more than 2 decades! You're doing a lot of things right. Avoiding confrontation is not always possible. Backing up a bit, I would hope you documented your reasons for firing the employee, and that you made her aware of the reasons for her termination. I know small businesses tend not to follow guidelines that a larger company with an HR department would. Having said that, some common sense should be a part of this process, such as recording names and dates of complaints by customers, the measurable standards which this employee failed to meet, etc. If you can absolutely verify that customers were lost as a result of her actions, that should be included in your records. Present these documents to your attorney. I'm not at all suggesting you should sue the former employee. A well-worded letter from an attorney to this individual might preclude further loss of business due to her voicing negative comments about your business. Most importantly, practice voicing your opinions to protect and defend yourself in the moment. I understand it is difficult and may not feel like it's your nature. You are a successful woman and adding this ability will help you grow, not only as a businesswoman, but as a complete individual.

Click Here to write to Dear Margaret.  Margaret Snow is a Life Coach in Ithaca, NY.

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