The Five Toughest Personnel Decisions


Part 1 of 5

A manager said to me, “I’m concerned about Jacob.  He has really struggled during the last few months.”

“How long has Jacob been with you?” I asked.

“Almost fifteen years.”

“What is Jacob’s performance history?”

“He’s been a pretty good performer, not great but reliable.  The volume in Jacob’s job has increased dramatically and we have become very dependent on technology.”

“Have you trained Jacob sufficiently?”

“Yes, we’ve offered extensive training.  In reality, the job has probably outgrown Jacob’s abilities.”

“Do you have other tasks that you could assign to Jacob?”

“Not really.  We are fully staffed and I’ve shifted tasks as much as I can.”

When a job outgrows an employee’s abilities, I think the company should try to reassign the employee to other tasks.  However, as in this example, reassignment is not always practical.

Another option is to continue coaching and training and hope to get the employee up to speed.  However, this usually does not work.

As tough as it sounds, the better option for both the organization and the employee is to compassionately remove the person from the organization and assist him/her in finding a better fit with another company.

 

Rude Behaviors in the Workplace Cost Money


I observed a vice president leading a contingent of visitors into an early-morning meeting.  As the group approached a conference room, the vice president noticed what appeared to be spilled coffee on the new carpet.  A staff member happened to be walking by.  The frowning, vice president gruffly said, “It looks like you need to teach your friends to be more careful with their coffee.”

Studies suggest that, during a work week, about half of employees engage in rude behaviors.  Further, Dr. Woolum and associates, writing in the Journal of Applied Psychology, report that merely witnessing rude behaviors costs the company money.

Examples of rude behaviors include:  crude language, interrupting others, failure to show appreciation, loud talking, checking your phone during conversations, eye-rolls, gossiping and so on.

Apparently, observation of rudeness sets a frame in the brain.  Later, when employees see what may be ambiguous behaviors—not necessarily rude; they interpret the behavior to be uncivil. Employees who perceive rudeness may avoid interactions with others and dampen their commitment to tasks.

In the interest of civility, not to mention the bottom line, leaders would do well to model respectful, courteous and considerate behaviors, while professionally calling out team members who slip up.

Should Rules Cover Everything from Soup to Nuts?


On the first day of class, a button-down-shirt high school teacher opened his class by announcing thirty-eight rules.  Rule Number twenty-three read, “There will be a consequence for anyone who jumps out of the second-story window.”

For the first time in memory, six students were caught jumping out of the window.  When asked why, one student replied, “Well, we had never thought about jumping out of the window.  I guess we took it as a challenge.”

I do understand that discipline is important, and I am aware that rules are necessary for defining unacceptable behaviors and applying consequences.

I am also aware that attendance rules do not eliminate absenteeism, and social media rules do not prevent employees from wasting time on Facebook.

Some organizations have elaborate, detailed handbooks that cover everything from soup to nuts.  These handbooks usually include many, sometimes confusing, disclaimers such as:  this is not a contract; all policies are subject to change; and if a rule contradicts a policy, the rule will prevail.

There are no prefab options for good discipline.  I say keep your handbook thin and limit it to a few, not exhaustive, rules.  The best way to maintain good discipline in the workplace is to hire employees who are self-disciplined.

 

When The Pronoun “I” May Be More Effective Than “We”


While jointly writing checks to pay bills, one party says to another, “We need more stamps.”  While the first party may simply be acknowledging a need, he/she is more likely, by implication, making a request of the second party to buy stamps.  Communication by implication is fraught with risks.

Consider these implied messages from mangers to employees.

“We need to be more responsive to clients.”

“We need to improve our on-time deliveries.”

“We need to reduce overtime.”

In each of these examples, the person hearing “we,” may not see the need to do anything differently because the manager has retained co-ownership of the issue.  Consider making the requests with the pronoun “I.”

“I would like for you to be more responsive to our clients.”

“I want you to improve your on-time deliveries.”

“I would like for you to reduce overtime in your department.”

By using the pronoun “I,” the manager owns the expectation and more clearly assigns the responsibility for achieving the expectation to the employee.

I understand the importance of teamwork and I get “there is no “I” in team.  I also believe that leaders who use the pronoun “I” more clearly identify their expectations.  And they do so without diminishing teamwork.

 

Should You Practice Power Poses?


Two employees chat during their lunch break.

“Did you meet the new boss?”

“Yes.”

“What did you think?”

“I’ve heard that she is smart, but she has a limp handshake and doesn’t look you in the eye.  I’m not sure she’s cut out for the job.”

We’ve known for some time that your body language contributes significantly to the images that others have of you.  The Wonder Woman stance–hands on hips, shoulders back, legs slightly spread–communicates confidence and power.

Researcher Amy Cuddy and others suggest that you can actually increase your self-confidence and power by practicing power poses.

Cuddy asked subjects to sit for a couple of minutes in high-power poses—hands behind the head, leaning back, feet on a desk.  Another group sat in low-power poses—bent forward, looking downward, hands folded.

Later, those who practiced high-power poses scored higher in simulated job interviews.  Interviewers saw them as more confident, authentic and comfortable.

Cuddy and associates suggest that your body positions actually change the chemistry in your brain.  For example, high-power posers’ testosterone levels increased and cortisol levels decreased.  This resulted in the ability to be comfortably assertive.

Tiny tweaks in your body posture may actually result in big changes in your ability to persuade and influence others.

 

 

Don’t Be a One-Trick Pony


The president selected Johnathon–a no nonsense, high-performer– to lead a low-morale team that had consistently missed performance objectives.

Johnathon announced to his team, “Your performance disappoints me.  You can do better.  I will change what I need to and I expect you to meet all performance metrics.  I will inspect all activities closely and take quick, corrective actions where needed.”

Employees grumbled, griped and blamed failures on unrealistic expectations, vendor problems, a warehouse fire, and bad weather.

Johnathon, anchored like a rock in a sandstorm, continued pressing.  He made changes, terminated a couple of employees, some quit.  The performance needle began vibrating upward.

After a few months, the president said to the team, “You have performed a turnaround beyond my highest expectations.”

Jonathon impatiently asked for even more from the team.  Turnover became an issue again, excuses emerged, and performance stalled out.  Eventually, the president removed Jonathon.

Johnathon’s methods jerked a group of carless whiners into a high-performing team, but he could not sustain the success.  Effective leaders are not one-trick ponies, they adapt.  Structure often turns bad performance into good, but support and freedom is necessary to sustain high performance.

This May Not Work for You, but . . .


Felix said to his manager, “I have an upset customer who claims we should be responsible for repairing a product still under warranty.  However, I think the customer caused the damage by improperly servicing the equipment.”

After listening further, Felix’s manager gave him a specific checklist of actions to take with the customer.

Felix approached the customer and began working through his manager’s suggestions.  The customer remained disappointed and later wrote a nasty complaint on social media.

Later, the manager asked Felix, “Why didn’t you get that issue resolved the way that I told you to?”

Felix responded, “I did exactly what you said. He just wouldn’t listen.”

I recall asking a friend how to get a stubborn horse to take the bit.  My friend said, “Now, this may not work for you but this is how I do it.”  Then he successfully performed the feat while I watched.

Of course, the next day as I tried to execute my friend’s methods, the horse resumed his bad behaviors.  However, I knew that I still owned the issue and did not consider my friend accountable.

Felix’s manager, I believe, should have put qualifiers on his suggestions.  Felix would know that, although the manager offered advice, the customer issue was still his to resolve.