By: Mr. Sital Ruparelia
Many businesses struggle to deal with under performing or 'problem' staff members. By "problem," I mean anything from persistent absence and lateness, right the way through to a bad attitude or not achieving the job requirements to the correct standards. When I examine these situations it is often a self inflicted problem which the business leaders and owners have created themselves. Either... a) they hired the wrong people, b) maybe they didn't train them correctly, or else c) they simply did not manage them when the problems first arose.
This last point, failing to deal with a problem when it first begins really is often the core reason and the purpose of this article. Your failure to set boundaries and have an 'awkward' conversation about deteriorating work standards, attitude or time keeping as soon as they first arise - will lead to problems down the line - I can guarantee that 100%. So no matter how uncomfortable it feels, you owe it to yourself, the business and the individual to sit them down and "nip it in the bud" (as we say in the UK) informally before it becomes a major problem that grinds away at you and your business. So how exactly do you do this..? Here is a 5 step model that you can use when you first realize you have a problem with a team member:
1. Create an opportunity for feedback. To provide feedback, you cannot do it in public or at a time where you cannot speak. Create or engineer an opportunity to have a one on one conversation with them - it should ideally be part of a regular weekly 1-2-1 update or catch up you have with your team individually. If you don't have something like this in place, then create an excuse or opportunity to talk the team member about something work related and then tag on the feedback at the end of the call in an informal "by the way" fashion.
2. Check if everything is "OK." Before giving feedback, you want to be aware of any circumstances that may be impacting on a team members performance - e.g. someone may be struggling to cope with the demands of the job, require some training, have conflict with one of the team or maybe experiencing some serious personal problems at home. Ideally you want to know of any such information before giving feedback. So casually say something like "I just wanted to catch up with you on a couple of things - but how are things going? Is everything ok?" Most often, they will say "Yes everything is fine" in which case move to step 3. But if they start telling you about a problem - then you need to listen & deal with that first. Depending on what the issue is, still try and progress with the next steps - i.e. if possible, don't be distracted by the 'problem.'
3. Feedback with FACTS. The next step is to give the feedback - but to do so with FACTS - what actually happened and that cannot be disputed. As opposed to an opinion you have formed based on someone's behaviour. This means NOT saying something like: "I think your commitment and attitude is slipping - you're constantly late - what is going on?" "I'm not very happy with your attitude these days, why are you so argumentative with everyone?" "You have become careless in recent weeks, you need to concentrate better and keep your mind on the job" Whilst these comments very often reflect how you think and feel - using this approach out of frustration will only make people defensive and possibly create some antagonism, rather than change their behaviour and move things forward. Instead, say something like: "Over the last 2 weeks, I have noticed you arriving late into work on about 4 or 5 occasions - is everything ok?" "I have noticed you got into 2 to 3 arguments with members of the team in the last couple of weeks in front of customers, is everything ok?" "You have made 2 to 3 major errors on the client accounts in the last month, is everything ok" These comments are all based on facts that cannot be disputed and don't judge the person in the same way as telling someone that they are "moody" or "careless" does. Which means you are better placed to see the right reaction from them in terms of a change in behaviour or works standards. But it is important that you don't underplay things too much - the individual should be in no doubt that the standard of their work / behaviour / timekeeping is not acceptable. It is not fair on them or your business for you to be 'woolly' and non specific about things because you want to be "nice."
4. Request a Change. Once you have fedback these facts, then you must request a change in behaviour as follows. "Can I request that you make a concerted effort to catch the earlier bus/train in the morning so that you can avoid the delays and arrive to work before 9.00am every day" "Can you please ensure that you are diplomatic and professional with other team members - and in particular ensure that you are pleasant and polite when in view of customers at all times" "Can you please be much more careful and thoroughly check the figures before submitting so that we have 100% accuracy on all client records" Again, this needs to be very clear - there should be no doubt in the mind of the person of what you expect of them.
5. Ask what support they want from you. This is not about giving feedback and expecting people to change instantly on their own. But about being genuine, honest and fair - so that they can adjust and get the job satisfaction of doing a job well So yes, offer the feedback and make a request to change. But also ask "what support would you like from me / us in order to help you achieve X, Y, Z..?" Or similarly, "What could we do to help you achieve x, y , z" Assuming the responses you get are reasonable then you must keep your part of the bargain and do what they are requested But what is reasonable...? "Could you maybe help me understand the ABC information as I don't totally understand it - and hence why I think I made those mistakes?" This is reasonable - as it's a request for further training to help someone do the job to the right standard. On the other hand "Can you please allow us all some flex time" probably is not reasonable!"
It is much much easier to avoid these conversations and hope "it will go away" or "sort itself out" - but in most cases it will not go away unless someone takes action. And that "someone" needs to be you. The longer you leave it, the harder and more daunting it will become. So from today - start "nipping things in the bud" and you will start seeing the difference in your team and your business. When you performance manage fairly and consistently, the "Right People" will usually stay with your business, whilst the wrong type of people will possibly self select themselves to move on. In which case you have the opportunity to recruit the right people who will help your business prosper and grow.
About the author:
Sital Ruparelia, The Recruitment & Retention Specialist, works with businesses that struggle with recruitment and retention issues and helps them implement strategies proven to Find & Keep The Right People consistently.
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