“I don’t understand why the manager lets Warren get away with behaving like he does,” one friend said to another after a particularly stressful team meeting.
“I know. Warren is arrogant and downright rude. His report did have errors in it and when someone called him on it, he starting ranting like a spoiled child.”
“It’s not the first time. He has a history of bragging, not delivering and then shutting people down with his anger. I think some people are afraid of him.”
Warren had been on the team for a year. In his first two months, Warren caught a design error that saved the company considerable time and money. But he had no other notable successes. His team behaviors, which were never great, worsened during the last six months.
Eventually, the manager called Warren into his office, and after listing several incidents of bad behavior, said, “Warren, your early performance showed promise. But the team can no longer tolerate your disruptive behaviors. I’m letting you go.”
Warren, looking like he had been betrayed by his only friend, first flashed rage and then in a downtrodden voice said, “You are firing me for that? Why didn’t someone every tell me?”
Janice’s manager said to her, “You seem frustrated. Are you OK?”
“I’m not always sure where I stand,” Janice responded.
“I turn in my work and I get another assignment. If something is unacceptable, I get it back; but I don’t know if accepted work barely made the cutoff or set a new standard.”
“Janice, your work consistently meets and even exceeds my expectations. I guess I assumed that you knew how much we value your contributions.”
I ask workshop participants, “How did management evaluate your work product last week?’’ Most have a general idea such as “OK, I guess,” or “not a good week.” But few can respond with precise confidence.
I think most managers can increase employee engagement by giving frequent and precise feedback. Look for opportunities daily or weekly to report to employees exactly what you think about their work. Offer more than a simple “thank you.” And avoid willy-nilly phrases like “good work,” or “not quite what I expected.”
Try cutting the deck a little deeper with more precision language such as, “top ten percent,” “that’s about a six,” “bottom half,” and the like. All employees should know at all times how their work product is valued.