Periodically, as managers, we are faced with employee non-conformance operationally (for example: not observing safety rules, missing deadlines, negligence, inaccuracies, etc.) or in terms of behaviour (for example: arriving late repetitively, not behaving according to the company values, gossiping, treating a client with indifference, etc.). These performance issues need to be addressed, even if difficult to do so, if we are going to retain focus on productivity and continue building a healthy team spirit on the shop floor. Leaders who turn a blind eye, who do not want to hear about problems or difficulties or who shy away from confronting issues as they arise usually end up losing respect from peers and subordinates and compound the issues further. Not dealing with violated expectations, broken promises and bad behaviour leads to three unhealthy results:
- Tacit approval is given to the behaviour – the employee feeling “it’s okay, as nothing has been said” can cause difficulty in addressing the problem at a later stage
- Other employees may feel that you are showing favouritism – “I can’t get away with this, yet she somehow manages to be invisible”
- Repetition of the bad behaviour reinforces your negative feelings about the person – the issue starts festering
Keeping short accounts with employees (addressing performance and behaviour issues as they occur) displays care, fairness and decisiveness in your leadership. Employees feel much more secure working in such an environment – they know what to expect. Addressing performance and behaviour issues should include some or all of the following steps:
- Make the discussion environment safe for the employee – explain that you are not wanting to jump to any conclusions or make any character judgements, but that you want to understand why the employee is behaving in a particular way. The conversation initially is thus going to be about discovery.
- Unemotionally, state what the problem behaviour is – keep the explanation problem-centred and not personal, avoid assumptions about motive and avoid absolutes, like “always” and “never”.
- Describe how this makes you feel – keep this to the point and relate your feelings to the impact on company mission, vision, values, strategy, deadlines, etc.
- State the consequences of the action – for the team or for the business in terms of risk to quality, productivity or client service.
- Define expectations – negotiate ways to address the problem. Solicit suggestions from the employee to remedy the situation – if none are forthcoming, then you may have to say what you want to see changed.
- State the consequences if the behaviour is not addressed – use this sparingly, be specific and realistic and do not make idle threats.
Keeping short accounts with employees requires a developed level of assertiveness for the manager – a skill where you are able to express your needs, concerns and opinions in a direct and honest manner. Keeping short accounts with employees is also a demonstration of care for the staff as well as for the company – its goals and reputation. The leader sets a performance example when decisive regarding non-conformance and bad behaviour.
Free To Grow offers the workshop: Assertiveness @ Work for Managers