SME Agony Uncle: Bobby Kerr answers all your business and work-related questions

Join Bobby on The Hard Shoulder every Tuesday, with thanks to Energia

Each week broadcaster, entrepreneur and agony uncle Bobby Kerr joins The Hard Shoulder to answer all your employment-related questions.

This week, Ivan kicked things off with Bobby by discussing the issue of leadership in business and the dos and don'ts of this role. 

Bobby was well-equipped for this one, having recently spoken at an event hosted by The Institute of Directors on what makes a great leader where he shared the stage with Ireland and Leinster rugby player Jamie Heaslip and Anne Heraty, CEO of CPL Resources PLC. 

According to Bobby and his fellow panelists, all good leaders possess the following traits: 

  • Honesty and integrity.
  • A good reputation that has been built up through hard work. This is something that can also be lost very easily. 
  • Commitment to the job at hand.  
  • Strong decision making abilities - not someone who struggles to make a call one way or the other. 
  • The ability to delegate and empower those around them. 
  • Creative thinking. 
  • Empathetic.  

Now onto your questions... 

I think one of my employees may be taking drugs before coming to work. He appears as if he is somewhere else and his eyes often look as though they are popping out of his head. Can I get him to take a drugs test and how would I go about doing this?

Bobby says this is a serious issue. This should be covered under his company safety statement, following the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act of 2005. If the employer has this, as part of the safety statement, the employer should have the right to pre-employment testing, random testing and with cause testing. This issue would fall under a with cause testing situation. 

If the employer doesn't already have the policy in place, Bobby says he needs to get one in place quickly and act to address this employee as it is dangerous to leave the situation as it is. 

How do I tell my nosey colleague to stop asking me about my weekend every week?It's the same conversation happening every Monday. 

Bobby and Ivan agreed that for this one, it's probably best just to respond as the colleague is being polite and cordial for asking so there's no harm in being conversational. However, if this person really doesn't want to talk about the weekend for some reason, there is also no harm in telling whoever asks that you'd rather not talk about it.  

My superior in work has become utterly infatuated with a member of the team. She is no longer effectively doing the job that the team needs her to do and instead, she is finding any excuse to waste time with the object of her affection. 

Bobby says that as a manager, you can't be seen to be acting different towards one employee over others. You need to have a balanced, fair, equitable approach to discipline and things in the workplace as a manager, Bobby added. And if you are seen to then treat one person differently to others, you are only undermining your own authority and the work that you do really. 

On the subject of a potential relationship in the workplace, Bobby says he doesn't think people need to avoid them but you need to be smart about them at the same time. People need to be street smart in these situations, he says, so maybe trial it without telling the whole office for a time before declaring the relationship official to avoid any future awkwardness. 

You can listen back to all of Bobby’s employment advice from Tuesday’s The Hard Shoulder here: If you have a business or SME related query you would like answered - you can get in touch with Bobby each week by simply sending a short mail to