Tips 162-166: Find the Slackers
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Find Employees Who Are Under-PerformingHow often does your organization complete performance appraisals? Many executives say never; others say only once a year. Ideally, they should happen every quarter to ensure optimal performance and growth for both the company and the individual.
Let's take a look at the company, perhaps yours, that evaluates its employees only once a year. That means for the overwhelming majority of the time, you are not providing employees with a check on their goals, their performance or their progress. Some may be working off-target, innocently diverted onto ineffective pathways. Others may be repeating errors or omissions. Yet others may not be working up to speed for a variety of reasons, usually rooted in uncertainty and fear of making mistakes. Your task, as you "manage by walking around," is not only to find people who are doing a good job, but also to uncover those who are not. They probably won't come up to you to ask those so-called "dumb questions" out of fear. But these are the very people you need to find. You need to ask them specifically what their task is and how they are progressing. You need to create the positive atmosphere that encourages them to speak up and honestly share their progress and approach. Only then can you determine if they are effective or not. And if they are not working at an optimal rate or they're not on the right pathway, then you need to provide immediate feedback and guidance to help them improve. After all, when they succeed, you succeed.
Improve Working ConditionsNo one enjoys working under sub-par conditions, and certainly no one works optimally in poor conditions. What are they? Take a good look around, and do it with a small group of employees from various levels in your hierarchy.
What could be improved? What needs fixing? Here are some questions you and your Working Conditions Improvement Team can ask yourselves:
- Is the desk lighting optimal? How about the overhead lighting?
- Do the size and shape of the desks leave enough room for working, or is the workspace too crowded?
- Is the machinery up to date? If not state-of-the-art, is it at least well-maintained and clean?
- Could the walls use a new coat of paint?
- Are there any interesting posters or works of art on the walls?
- If purchasing or leasing something new could improve productivity and employee satisfaction, what would that be? How soon can it be ordered?
- Do all employees have the materials they need to perform at the highest level? You may not know the answer, so ask the individuals you greet as you walk around.
- Are the floors clean, or are they cluttered or dirty?
- If you have a cafeteria, is the food appealing, yet reasonably priced?
Follow Up on Your Directives and ActionsOften, leaders are so busy that they cannot keep track of all of the tasks they have assigned to others. Many executive colleagues wrongly believe that if the task doesn't come back to them, then it must have been completed.
This is a serious error in judgment for several reasons. First, employees do not always check back with the boss, especially if they do not exactly understand what the task involves, what they must do with it, or if it is too difficult or complex. Rather than appear stupid or incompetent, they simply put the task off, hoping the boss will forget about it. Second, if you do not go back to the person you delegated to, that person may correctly or incorrectly assume that you do not really care about the project, or that you do not care about the employee. If an employee thinks that, the reaction often is "If the boss doesn't care about it or about me, then why should I care?" To increase your effectiveness and your employees' productivity and morale, when you delegate a task or a responsibility, be certain to go back and check on its progress and outcome. Don't forget to provide specific feedback on the success or failure of the effort. And certainly, praise the person's efforts in accomplishing the task or at least attempting to accomplish it. --David G. Javitch
Provide Encouraging Advice When Something is Not Going WellOne of your main goals as a leader is to establish a positive rapport with your employees. This means delivering both good and bad news, but in a positive manner. Most employees are accustomed to hearing negative feedback from their bosses. The usual result is that this news creates a large chasm between boss and employee.
While not all feedback can be positive, negative information definitely can be conveyed in a way that people will accept. Here's how:
- Be convinced that providing feedback, whether positive or negative, can have an encouraging effect.
- Be certain not to raise your voice or come off as yelling or highly annoyed. All this accomplishes is that the employee shuts down, disregards your diatribe and becomes angry. Sometimes this results in the employee looking for ways to sabotage you and your efforts.
- Be specific and helpful.
- Find something good to say about the employee. This allows the recipient to open his or her ears to receive you message.
- Continue with a clear but not lengthy statement about what is wrong.
- Be encouraging and optimistic about finding a solution.
- State how you think the situation can be improved.
- Ask the employee how it can be improved.
- Offer to work with the employee to jointly devise a solution.
Identify Conflicts Between Individuals and DepartmentsConflict is all around us. Whether it's a minor or major difference, a mini-competition to get the next taxi, a disagreement as to who can be served next in line, large or small, we all experience it.
But conflict does not have to be negative. When defined simply as "neutral tension that may become negative," it takes on a new meaning. It does not have to be difficult or irritating. In fact, some degree of tension in the workplace is definitely positive. Low to moderate levels of stress, disagreement, discrepancy and disparity can actually lead to creativity and innovation. One of your tasks as a leader is to identify the sources of tension, decide if it is positive or negative, and then work with the parties to iron out an agreement or resolution to the conflict. Demonstrate how these issues, when left unaddressed, detract from the organization's goals, productivity and culture. Ensure that all parties involved try to find the positive aspect of their seemingly negative interaction. Follow these steps:
- State how conflict can be seen as neutral and even positive for the reasons previously stated.
- Emphasize the importance of all parties working out their differences.
- Identify aspects of the conflict that all parties have in common.
- Ask each person to state how the other person sees their viewpoint.
- Correct any misunderstandings.
- Ask each party to suggest a resolution that the other party can live with.
- Find similarities on each party's view.
- Agree on a solution that meets each party's requirements.
- Review the final solution and garner commitment to work toward implementing the agreement.