Have you been spending valuable time and energy dealing with underperforming or problem employees?

Have you ever asked yourself “How do I know what to do” regarding these employees?

In a recent survey, CFO’s were asked how much time managers in their organizations were spending dealing with these underperforming or difficult employees. The response was approximately 18% of the week was spent micromanaging the work or coaching. WOW! When you consider a 40 hour workweek, this is approximately 7.2 hours per week spent in a reactive mode versus in proactive, business building activity. Is this time well spent? At times yes, and at other times, NO!

For years, clients have asked if I could put a chart together that is an “if this, then that”. A chart that clearly states, if they do “this” they get a verbal warning, if they do “that”, they get a final warning, etc.

My response has always been consistent and the answer is, the response or documentation must mirror the incident. For example, tardy by 10 minutes may be a verbal warning but if this happens every day of the week and has gone on for months it may be more severe. If the employee is tardy by two hours, it may be a written warning. If it is Super Bowl Sunday and your business depends on this employee, the conversation and response may be more severe. If an employee has a customer service incident, an investigation to provide a clear understanding of the situation is critical. This allows you to understand the context and potential ramifications of those actions.

Consider the recent Best Picture snafu at the Academy Awards. The initial outcry or reaction may be that “heads will roll” and someone is going to take the hit for this debacle. Instead, the audit firm took the high road and set an example of how businesses should analyze and resolve this type of situation. They identified their standard process, determined what actually occurred, and decided how to coach and communicate with the employee. Their response regarding the employee was that this was “human error”. They may have taken a different action internally but their public persona was to apologize and treat their employee with respect and dignity knowing that he already felt terrible about the situation.

This situation may have catastrophic consequences for the audit firm and surely they will look at all of their processes and policies under a microscope to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Every business should take a similar approach and determine what might be considered catastrophic in the business and how to handle this if it ever occurs.

A hospitality client had a chef that was an icon working for them. He had a temper and was known to yell and use “flowery” language in the kitchen. They put up with that! He would wave knives at people to make a point (no pun intended) and they put up with that! He wiped his nose on his hand during a sanitation inspection and that was the final straw. The company released him from his role for an action that could have had long term catastrophic impact for the business.

What can we learn from the Academy Award situation?
-When an event occurs with an employee, determine what is the standard policy or process that should have occurred?
-Determine, has this policy or process been communicated clearly to your employees? If so, move forward. If not, you are relying on mindreading or telephone to communicate and this is never ideal or reliable.
-Understand the action of the employee and why they did what did? They may have had a very logical reason for their behavior. Once you determine the context, you may change your mind regarding next steps.
-If the employee had a logical reason and though process for the action; use this as a coaching opportunity.
-If the employee made a mistake; use this as a coaching opportunity.
-If the employee was cognizant of their actions but chose to exhibit bad behavior that is not in alignment with your policy or process, move forward with the documentation. You may decide on stronger actions based on prior issues, i.e. they have had prior warnings and now you are at the next step.
-Identify opportunities to reengineer your processes or modify your policies to avoid occurrences in the future.
-People are not perfect. Mistakes happen and we all make them. How will you handle these consistently and graciously in your organization?

The Best of the Best Award! Ensure your approach and practices support an Academy Award winning outcome for the company, customer and employee.