Finding Good Employees Can Be A Challenge


The world has all kinds of people, and, man, can I find them. Or maybe they find me. I must have one of those faces that says, “Shunned by society? Give me a try!”

The latest in this long string of misfits has been yet another applicant for the independent contractor role at my store. I was initially impressed. Grizelda was a college graduate, had been working at a military base and was extremely conscientious. Case in point: after I told her we may be able to use her following a 30-day probationary period, she clicked her heels together in the parking lot, then came back with a dustpan full of broken glass she’d found out there.

“See how conscientious I am?” she asked.

I nodded, but I had really been focusing on something else. “Do you always carry a whiskbroom and dustpan with you?”

“Yes!” she happily replied. I could see having a whiskbroom in your car, but a dustpan? No matter. Inconsequential.

The next day, during training, she asked if she should take the key with her when she walked away from the register. Good question! “Yes, you should. In fact, I need to get a lanyard for that thing,” I replied. “But, oh, I see you already have a lanyard around your neck.”

“Oh, that’s for my little knife,” she said.

“Little knife?”

“You know, in case I have to perform an emergency tracheotomy.”

Red Flag #1. At lunchtime, I began to secretly worry that a bit of peanut butter might go down the wrong pipe, and I’d end up with Grizelda preemptively slitting my throat.

But everything else was going swimmingly, so I told myself to stop overreacting. My only real problem was that the woman seemed exceedingly nervous. I finally laughed and said, “Grizelda, you’re so nervous, you’re making me nervous!” I decided to get out of her face for a while. No one was in the store. She had a small task to do, and she could obviously use the break. I retreated to my office. When I looked up, she had followed me in, on the verge of tears.

“I’m sorry I’m nervous,” she said. “I haven’t been the same since my traumatic head injury three months ago.”

Red Flag #2. Traumatic head injury? During the entire application and interview process, this little tidbit had never come up. She told me she was in town to care for her mother. I began to suspect it was the other way around.

Still, conscientious. Smart. It probably wasn’t her fault she got smacked with a lead pipe.

Turned out there were a few other issues. The next time I was at the counter alongside her, it was because I came running out of my office after hearing one of my best customers shout, “Before Debbie loses a customer, can we just agree to disagree?”

Sigh. In the retail world, we really try to avoid discussions about religion or politics. We try to provide a neutral environment in which people can relax, have fun and, hopefully, spend money. Things like evolution, divine creation and who should run the country are topics best discussed elsewhere, preferably after the sale is rung up and the packages are out the door.

So, Red Flag #3. Call me intolerant, but three red flags are all I can handle. I mean, she had only worked 10 hours altogether. At this rate, there would be 12 red flags per 40-hour work week, and, to be honest, I was still a little creeped out by the knife.

We parted ways, but she came back later and spent $88. I guess we’re good but, until I’m sure, I’m wearing a leather cravat.


  1. Good article. I appreciate the detail and directness of it all. Working in an office environment, I see similar new employees and turned down candidates for job posts. It is definitely a mixed bag out there. But you make a good point about when the time to fish or cut bait is. You did the right thing.

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