Eric’s manager said to me, “Eric will not take initiative. He knows his job but does only what I tell him to do.”
“What have you tried?” I asked.
“I’ve told him to do what he thinks needs to be done and don’t wait around for me to give him an assignment. He wasn’t responsive, so I started giving him detailed checklists.”
“How did that work?”
“Not so well. Eric made a half-hearted effort to do a few things but mostly he just conjured up excuses.”
Effective leaders are attentive to each employees’ uniqueness. Some like detailed instructions, some like broad guidance. Some like public praise but public attention embarrasses others. Pressure motivates some people to rise to the occasion, others buckle.
If your current way of dealing with an employee is not producing the desired results, then change your methods.
Since micromanaging did not work with Eric, maybe the leader could try giving him specific outcomes with deadlines and a lot of freedom in performing his tasks.
Of course, if a leader tries several ways to motivate an employee and none seem to work, it is likely that the employee just does not have the talent or commitment to perform.
As a peer described Rob, “He’s always kidding around and usually has a joke handy.”
A friend, passing Rob’s work station, noticed that Rob had a 1960’s Playboy-type photo of a model on his computer screen. “I don’t think you should have that photo on your screen,” the friend commented.
“Aah, it just popped up,” Rob said. “I don’t always know where these things come from.”
Others had also noticed questionable images on Rob’s screen but no one spoke about it. A young female employee, who recently joined the team, said to her friend. “I was talking to Rob and I was shocked at the image I saw on his computer.”
Eventually, someone reported Rob to Human Resources. When questioned, Rob’s supervisor said, “I guess I was aware of it, but I didn’t pay much attention. It’s hard to control everything that appears on someone’s computer.”
After investigating, the company found both Rob and his supervisor to be in violation of its sexual harassment policy. “Why discipline me?” the supervisor asked. “I didn’t do anything.”
Supervisors need to know that they may be held accountable for “contributing to a hostile work environment” even if they did not commit the questionable acts.
A manager said to me, ““I assumed leadership of a department of sixteen people about three months ago. Most are reliable performers. A few are really good and one is marginal at best.”
“Would your team be better off if the marginal employee were gone?” I asked.
“No question, much better off.”
“Then why don’t you work with your human resources’ manager to professionally remove the employee?”
“The employee is sixty three years old. He was one of the first persons hired almost twenty years ago when the department was formed. There is scant chance of removing him.”
“Have you tried training and coaching?”
“He’s not really interested in getting better. I think he’s just holding on for a couple of years until he retires.”
When dealing with a persistent, low performer whom you cannot terminate, I think you just have to learn to tolerate the employee.
Be respectful of the low performer as a person, but do not waste time attempting to train, motivate, encourage, or improve the person’s attitude. Minimize disruptions as much as possible. Find work-arounds when you have to. Understand that you may have to check more often than you would like. Quit worrying about it.
Janice’s manager said to her, “I appreciate your reporting the customer’s failure to comply with all safety rules. But you should have insisted that he wear safety glasses and hearing protectors at all times. If the customer failed to obey, you should have canceled the tour. Consider this to be a verbal reprimand. A copy goes in your file.”
Janice had been responsible for guiding a new customer through on a plant tour. Although Janice had carefully explained all safety requirements prior to the tour, the customer consistently ignored some rules. Janice did not think the customer was ever at risk. Still, she repeatedly and politely nagged him to comply.
At one point, the customer became irritated and said, “This is silly. I’m forty feet away from any moving parts. These things are uncomfortable.”
Janice later commented to a friend that she feared she might offend the customer to the point of jeopardizing a potential high-dollar sale.
Managers described this incident in numerous meetings and promised consequences for all future failures.
Employees heard the message loud and clear. However, over the next year employees reported in confidential interviews that customer violations continued and perhaps even increased. Tour guides simply quit reporting what they thought were incidental violations.
(Part 5 of 5 on Increasing Influence)
A manager said to one of his account executives. “If you will agree to deliver your service at no commission, we can get a second contract that is quite profitable.”
“Why should I do that? I will not be the one to deliver the profitable service. Someone else will benefit from my sacrifice.”
“True. But our division will generate a lot more revenue due to your cooperation. If you refuse to cooperate, you will lose an opportunity for a nice financial gain at the end of the year.”
This manager’s influence effort threatens the account executive by pointing out how lack of cooperation will result a lost benefit.
Other examples: “If your absentee rate continues, you will lose the opportunity to work here.” “If you continue to be out of compliance, you will lose revenue due to heavy fines.” “If you do not honor the guarantee, you will lose a lot of business from this customer.”
Threats and fear influence attempts are distasteful for most of us. And there may sometimes be nasty side effects. For these reasons, I think the “lost opportunity” justification should be employed infrequently and only after other influence attempts have failed.