Canadian Contractor

John Bleasby   

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Canadian Contractor

What would you do? Send us your resolution to this business problem...and enter our contest to win!

Editor’s Note: This contest is now closed.
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Here’s the dilemma
Dave Shankovitz’s renovation business has increased steadily over the past few years, with two crews running simultaneous projects. This is largely due to his trusted carpenter Pete Caldwell. Dave and Pete have worked together for many years. This spring, Dave asked Pete to act as his ‘eyes and ears’ on one of the two job sites, a sort of Team Leader, allowing Dave to focus on the business while also supervising the second job site.

You could win this DEWALT cordless nail gun!

You could win this DEWALT cordless nail gun!

Pete has always been on an hourly wage and submits his time sheet every two weeks. Dave recently increased Pete’s hourly carpentry rate because of his added leadership responsibilities. They’re friends off the job too. Their wives take yoga classes together, and the couples enjoy meals together every few weeks.

However, Dave has observed a change in Pete’s work habits in recent weeks. Pete has been showing up on site at 9am instead of his customary 8am. He also spends a good part of the morning walking around the site before picking up any tools to work. However, his time sheet still shows him arriving at 8am. Dave also learned that Pete was leaving at noon on Fridays to go to his cottage, but was still putting down 4:30pm as his check out time.


Last week, Pete put forward the idea of moving away from an hourly wage and becoming a profit-sharing partner with Dave. Given Pete’s work ethic and his less-than-honest accounting of hours, Dave wonders if his long-time friend and carpenter is the right kind of partner. Turning him down might mean a loss of a good worker entirely and a good friend.

What should Dave do?

  1. Reprimand Pete immediately. Tell him that his time sheets are not honest and need to be adjusted, and that he needs to improve his work ethic. Explain that partnership at this time is out of the question.
  2. Make a mental note but don’t act rashly. Pete is a good worker and friend, and should be shown some leniency. Deflect any discussion about a partnership.
  3. Speak to Pete at the first reasonable opportunity. Outline the problem with the time sheets and offer Pete a chance to explain.
  4. Say nothing for now, but ask one of the tradesmen on site to confidentially keep note of Pete’s hours and work habits and report to Dave weekly to see his behavior continues.
  5. Meet with Pete to discuss a partnership arrangement. This is an opportunity to resolve issues regarding wages and responsibilities in order move their relationship forward on a new basis.

Send me your choice of alternatives, along with a brief explanation to:

(Please do not use the comment section below for your responses)

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13 Comments » for Win a DEWALT Dual Speed cordless framing nailer!
  1. Catherine says:

    #3 – speak with Pete about the time sheets. If he is really Dave’s friend it will be easily & honestly explained, if not he is stealing from Dave. No worker is worth having if you can’t trust them. Tighten the rules again and make surprise inspections on site so you know for sure what is going on with your staff. It is Dave’s job to manage his company, even if that means extra hours.

  2. Paul Rhynold says:

    #3-Ask Pete if everything is Ok at home and with the family. You are concerned because of the time loss and the timesheets that there might be a financial situation also. Let him know that in his position he has to lead by example. If not,then the whole crew is starting late and leaving early.

  3. Ron Lee says:

    Under no circumstance should option 4 be chosen. Asking someone to spy on your behalf always backfires and guys on job sites talk so when the employee tasked with spying talks it will show the rest of the employees ownership has trust issues (although justified) and can bring down the moral of the entire crew.
    A combination of option 2 and 3 should be chosen. Although stealing hours is not acceptable the owner must keep in mind that the most difficult thing is to find good, skilled guys these days. However he must bring to his attention that he is aware of the time sheet issue and it will not be tolerated. I would not consider partnership with someone whom behaves this way and mixing friends with business does not typically work out.

  4. Fab Graziani says:

    Option 3 is the choice I would make and show Pete that a leader can not behave like that as an example to the other employees or the business will go from a steady growth business to straight line or down turn.
    Employees will follow the same stat and stop hours as well and deadlines will be missed.
    Customers watch people working and want to feel like they are paying for professional prompt service. The only person paying for the unworked hours charged is Dave.

  5. Evan says:

    I would go with number 3
    Let him know that you are still the owner of the business and that his behaviour sends a wrong message to the other crew members. They might start doing the same. This needs to be address first before we look at any partnership. Or you could offer a yearly bonus based on proformance

  6. Ed McDonald says:

    Speak to Pete at the first reasonable opportunity. Outline the problem with the time sheets and offer Pete a chance to explain.

    Because the recent behaviour is out is character, it is important to get Pete’s story. Something is definitely going on and needs to be cleared up!

  7. Mr. M says:

    A workers habits can change at a drop of a hat these days… Over worked unappreciated day to day stress could affect work even home. Even noticing another worker not giving his/her all on the job can prevent issues down the line. Keeping an open line of communication is a key in everything. Ask… hey why are walking around site @ 8 and not starting till 9? Or this Friday I’ll be leaving early to hit the road to avoid traffic would that bother you….? If u never ask the answer is a simply No. There’s always an answer to lack of effort by someone. Ask… Before there’s a communication breakdown especially among friends/coworkers.

  8. Daniel says:

    Give him a chance he is a friend let him know that its not ok and if he would like to be a part of the business he has to show that he is committed. If he is a loyal worker and a true friend he will see what he has been doing. At the end of the day Dave is still the owner and accepts all the responsibilities to the work and if Pete doesn’t want to fulfill his obligation than he can remain as a worker and Dave can find another supervisor.

  9. Eric elford says:

    My sense is that Pete has become expectant of more than just a wage increase. Any good carpenter gets offers from outside the job on a regular basis, and he could go work for anybody -or on a more interesting project. It’s likely Pete is entertaining a bigger move that will lead to partnership, or independant contracting that may compete directly with Dave. If Dave truly values that relationship with Pete, he should take him for lunch immediately and see what he can do to retain him permanently. Otherwise Dave just wants an employee and is only willing to keep him on as an employee.

  10. Peter McCart says:

    Definitely no 5
    This is the guy you built your business with. He should probably already own half. You can ‘t replace a long term relationship and the peace of mind of relying on someone you can trust. These new issues are short term and can easily be resolved by setting expectations however Dave needs to make sure he is also keeping up with these expectations

  11. Marten says:

    I also vote for # 3. Give Pete a chance to explain himself. Seems to me like something else is going on outside of work. Might want to talk to his wife as well if they are friends as that could bring some insight as well. Next step would be a laying down of the expectations as they have always been and if Pete doesn’t like it he is free to go. You can always find some other employees. Could promote from within as well.

  12. Joe Commisso says:

    If I were Dave my choice of conflict resolution in this case would be:

    3. Speak to Pete at the first reasonable opportunity. Outline the problem with the time sheets and offer Pete a chance to explain.

    This seams like the most respectful means of getting to the bottom of the problem. From experience, repremanding a co worker can cause resentment which can make Pete start working against Dave and eventually going his seperate ways. There isn’t something more offending to a renovator or tradesman than to feel under valued or disrespected. Thats not to say that Dave shouldn’t bring it up due to the friendship, just that it should be done with the outmost respect. At the end of the day it is a business with clients expectations to be met. One of the worst options would be having a coworker spy on Pete. This not only will eventually backfire and cause Pete to lose trust in Dave, but it fosters a workplace culture of distrust and division. The most successful renovation companies should work as a team unit where everyone is treated as essential to the company’s success, as apposed to a top down structure where everyone is trying to climb higher than their peers. Finally the choice to talk with Pete about partnership is out of the question at the moment, as this should be done only when the trust has been completely restored through repectuful discussion.

  13. Ed LaPierre says:

    I would pick answer #5

    This is a perfect move forward opportunity and Dave can start with the honesty approach. Dave can talk to Pete in a non confrontational way about his hours of work and ultimately can put Pete’s new partnership expectations and scope of work (including hours) on the table. If you want a successful partnership, honesty and proper communication would be a good way to begin and prosper.

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