I got spanked in a teleseminar the other day. I shared some thoughts about how to have the “difficult conversation.” You know the one…about hygiene and grooming. Best to head the issue off at the pass, so I offered tips for updating the Operations Manual and creating a culture of good manners. That’s a proactive way to avoid the conversation altogether.

Then, I got into trouble. A participant asked about a situation involving an employee whose grooming – well, lack thereof – was due to his religious practices. Sure, I gave the obligatory, “Consult a labor attorney,” disclaimer. Then, I shared what I would do…which might get you fired or sued. I would talk to the person about their religious convictions and share my concerns about their hygiene.

As the owner of a home grown business, I would do that. I trust that I could have a conversation that would be respectful of my employee’s beliefs and not violate his human rights or sensibility. I have been in a situation where I failed to discuss an employee’s beliefs and it cost us both a lot of needless aggravation. So, I am just coming clean. Like they say in A.A., I share from my experience strength and hope. After the teleseminar, I was called on the carpet by a bona fide HR expert. Duly chastised! You might want a different take before you make a decision based on one woman’s opinion.

The other day, I was picking peas for dinner, right out of my garden. I had a moment of epiphany. The peas in my plot are not all perfect. Some are misshapen; some have been left on the vine too long. However, they are mine…home grown, and as a result all the more delicious. As the gardener, whatever they are, I am responsible for them.

That’s the freedom and responsibility of being a business owner. A leader has to decide. Sometimes she (or he) decides wrong. I savor being the one to make the decision. I know my heart and motivation. I trust myself in an ambiguous situation. I may blow it. But I can live with it.

What do you think? Could you have an open discussion about beliefs and values with a team member? Could you do that…without being racist, dismissive, disrespectful or discriminatory?