“This is it. I am going to have to let you go.” And with that a 5 year relationship with one of my favorite employees ended. I have always hated letting people go but this one was especially difficult.
I hired her when she was 19, the sister in law of one of my other employees. I was not sure she would be up to task, being the primary receptionist for a busy family doctor with high standards is not an easy job. She excelled out of the gate, handling the phones and patients with grace and aplomb. They all loved her as her natural sweetness and willingness to help were impossible to resist. In the 5 years she worked for me I cannot remember single complaint from a patient.
I genuinely cared for her, and as she is Hispanic, often called used the term of endearment “Mija” when I talked to her. She talked to me about her life and her family and I felt as if we were as close as a boss can be with an employee.
So what happened?
Overtime she began to make mistakes. I wondered if it was due to the fact that she was trying to go to college in the evenings or if it is was financial pressure. Whatever the reason was, things started to fall through the cracks. I talked to her about it, counseled her about it and even warned her about it. She improved for a while but when one morning I discovered some patient results had not been forwarded to me for several weeks due to an oversight, I felt I had no choice but to say good-bye. I had to draw the line at quality of care. She was heart-broken and so was I.
A short time later she applied for a job with the Medical Group I contract with. They called and asked me about her and I gave them the best recommendation I could, telling them how she had been so wonderful for so long. To her credit she had been honest in the interview about all that had happened. They offered her the position.
We had limited contact over the next few years, she would occasionally answer the phone when I called the Medical Group and her sister-in-law gave me updates every once in a while. There were never any negative words exchanged and she never spoke ill of me to anyone. I never thought that our relationship would improve but was grateful that there seemed to be no hard feelings.
A few months ago the staff wanted to change cleaning services for the office. Her sister-in-law asked if she could do the weekend cleaning. “Why not?” I thought. So I hired her for that position. The job is on the weekends when the office is closed so I did not see at all and we talked only once or twice for brief moments.
In the last two weeks we have had staff shortages in the office due to vacation and family illness. Normally we would call a temp office for help or just struggle a long, but she is on winter break from college and the office staff wondered if she could fill in. “Why not?” I thought again!
And so she is back at the desk, answering phones and smiling at the patients. When she came in for her first shift we embraced, genuinely pleased to see one another. We have talked some and updated each other on events in our lives and I have been reminded of the sweetness and kindness that have always been a part of who she is. I have even called her “mija” again.
Her story reminds me of how life is supposed to work. Mistakes sometimes have unavoidable consequences. Bosses need to make changes and employees need to move on. Good people, kind people, can still care about one another and still wish each other well. We can forgive one another and sometimes even work together again. If only we could all forgive and love in this way!