When to Let it Ride, and When to Take Action !
Let’s open up by saying that we talk a lot about performance in the workplace. Organizations cannot achieve their objectives without solid employee performance.
Many organizations balance the demands of meeting their corporate objectives at the same time as establishing a culture and environment where employees feel valued and have purpose. They believe that people are critical to their success, they model their Values and behaviors, and their leaders develop and nurture good performance of their employees.
The truth is, the “real person” comes to work every day, which means that their personal strengths, challenges, successes, and limitations also land in the workplace. Some employees can achieve good performance in spite of some of the challenges that they may face, and others do not. People have bad days, even bad weeks, but where do we draw the line on letting it ride and when to take action? The real answer is hard to say as every employee and situation is unique.
Leaders, ask yourself “how long can our team, my department, the organization can carry on without my team members performing at their optional levels? What is really at stake by non-performance?”. Leaders who tackle these issues head on will be able to influence better performance and improved employee satisfaction.
We talk a lot about the Five Conditions of Great Performance. Employees Know What to, Are Able to do it, Are Equipped to do it, Want to do it, and Have Positive Interactions that foster healthy working relationships. For leaders, this is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak, when these leading indicators are present and working well we can predict that good performance will happen. On the opposing side, when these Conditions are not in place, or if the employee does not feel that these Conditions are in place for them, rightly, wrongly, or misunderstood, their work quality, overall attitude, lack of teamwork, and missed deliverables will show up in their performance.
Here are some signs to watch out for:
The “water cooler talk”: An employee may gossip and/or engages in dialogue that does not foster positive workplace or social interactions. They may be more vocal than previously about their work in general and may express another career path or interest.
Behavior: If an employees’ behavior changes from where it once was, such as attitude, body language, punctuality, reliability, work relationships, etc.
Building negative alliances: If an employee quietly undermines leadership, builds alliances or complains to certain individuals in destructive ways, or seemingly being at the center of team strife or tension, even though the work still gets done. Many times, these situations will happen under the radar and it takes time to uncover that is really going on or who is at the center of it. Use your intuition, when it doesn’t “feel” right, it usually isn’t.
Letting it ride: Should you? How long?
There are situations when an employee may need time to handle some personal or workplace issues that may be affecting their work. If an employee has confided with you about a particular issue you now have information that allows you to understand what is happening for that employee. It is important to recognize with your employee that a situation exists but that they need to declare what actions that they are committing to remedy the situation. Being a good listener and allowing the employee to not take action is never a viable solution.
When It’s Personal
So what if it isn’t the work environment that is causing the performance failure? Now we are wading in the personal and private lives of our employees and it can be a touchy situation when a level of privacy is important to maintain. When is it your responsibility to declare your assessment about their performance and ask those personal questions? How long do you leave it ride hoping that the issue will clear itself up? That also depends.
When to Take Action
If the situation is not remedied in the time or fashion that was discussed or promised, and a reasonable amount of time has passed, it is time to address the situation head on. It will be your judgement what is deemed a “reasonable” amount of time, and this will depend on what is at stake at the time, and the gravity of the situation.
Collect the Facts First
To prepare for a constructive conversation it is important to capture the facts of the situation(s) where their performance or behavior is not meeting expectations. Document dates and details of the poor performance how their performance has impacted (or the potential to impact) the team/personal or department to reach results.
Discuss the Consequences of Poor Performance
Discuss the facts, get to the root of the issue, and document the performance improvement plan (some organizations have formal PIP’s) that you establish with the employee. It is also important to note that behavior that is not aligned with corporate Values or one that fosters a healthy work environment, is poor performance. “How” the work gets done is equally important as “what” gets done.
As leaders we are not therapists, and trying to be one isn’t recommended. Leaders are responsible to address performance concerns, support their employees, and work with them to handle their personal issues that are impacting their performance. This may require escalating the situation to the HR department or external providers such as the Employee Assistance Program.
People are complex, no two situations are the same and some tough judgement calls and conversations may need to happen. However, taking a consistent approach how you handle these situations will make leading your team(s) a much easier experience. Additionally, your employees will know what to expect when this situation may arise for them, and when it is handled in a way that produces a healthy outcome, they will feel more compelled to confide in you.
Always, we are here to help our colleagues. We want your feedback, comments and questions about your Performance Management experience. If you have any questions about how these Performance Improvement concepts can be applied to your work group and/or your organization, please let us know and we will be happy to assist.
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