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Letting an assistant go

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Jun 7, 2008 9:26 pm

Never thought I’d be saying this, but I’m considering working out a parting with my SA.

  Background- she's been with me for a dozen years, at a captive firm and now in my indy practice.  Performance is good in many areas and exceptional in a few, but does not adapt to technology well and spends a lot of time on personal business. She professes to me that she is happy with the job and loyal to me and my clients. However in the (firm-mandated) e-mail review I have seen her applications to competitors and discussions with assistants at other firms regarding openings there. I have seen e-mails with insults about other employees. I suspect that once she realized that as a BOM I have to review e-mails she has moved this correspondence to a personal e-mail (where it should have been all along. I would have enjoyed the blissful ignorance!)   Finally, I saw just this week a rejection e-mail from a competitor to whom she had applied for a financial advisor position. (She is Series 7.) That seems to me to open a whole new can of worms.   I can see a few potential discussions I should have with her:   I know of the various discussions you've had with competitors. If you're truly not happy here then let's talk about it. I'd love you to stay but if you feel you would be happier elsewhere then I won't stand in your way.   and/or   In the discussions you've had with others you've said some very unprofessional things about Suzy. What can you tell me about that?   and/or   You have applied for a job as a financial advisor. If that is what you really want to do, then why not talk with me about it? I can't pay the kind of salary to you that you are getting now, but if you truly want to be a financial advisor I'll help you become one.   or   You have applied for a job as a financial advisor. That puts you in direct competition to me. Don't let the door hit you on the way out, and if you use your knowledge of my clients identities and assets to try to build your practice I'll sue you and your broker-dealer until you both squeal like stuck pigs.   OK, maybe I won't say it exactly like the last one but you get the picture. Any constructive advice about how you might handle a situation like this is greatly appreciated.
Jun 7, 2008 9:34 pm

I would talk to her and ask her directly to explain to you what she is doing.  If the conversation goes in a negative direction, ask her some very simple questions.  Do you have any client info outside the office?  Do you recall the non-compete you signed (please tell me your licensed SA signed a non-compete).  Do you need a box to put your personal items in?

Jun 7, 2008 11:42 pm

Get your ducks in a row. Speak with a labor attorney, first. Without following specific steps outlined by an attorney, you may open yourself up to having to pay unemployment compensation, if you fire her. And what she has done with the emails, etc. sounds like you might be able to fire her without having to pay it.

  In any case, don't handle this without professional help. And if she tries to screw ya, just mention that you can put termination comments on her record, which could jeopardize her future employment as an FA with some other firm.
Jun 8, 2008 2:53 am

I don’t know that firing is the right decision. She may have other issues in her life that are causing her to think about a career change or advancement. It may be something as simple as burn out and she just needs a two week vacation. Either was I would try and get to the bottom of it before you fired her or she leaves anyway. If for no other reason than to teach her replacement.

Jun 8, 2008 2:43 pm

On some level, i sort of agree with River_King.

The reason being, this is no stranger, she has been with you for 12 years as you said. You should be able to have a heart to heart talk with her and find out whats going on. Then you can make a decision after careful consideration.
Jun 8, 2008 4:27 pm

Thanks to all for a lot of very good advice here so far. I welcome further input.

FB, your idea is something which occurs to me as a real possibility from my end. However I'll be very surprised if she actualy agrees to it, as it would be (for the first couple years anyway) a rather significant pay cut for her. But you're right in that it's a relatively low risk move for me.

The heart-to-heart talk has to happen, but I suspect that Doberman is right about talking with an attorney first.