I am a Cubs Fan!! Yes, I will admit it, grew up singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” with Harry Carey. The one time my mom got in trouble was when she cut school to go to a Cubs Game and was caught by a friend of her father. She lived almost 100 years and dreamed of the Cubbies in the playoffs and winning the pennant. Well, here we are!! I like so many others have been glued to the games, screaming in my living room while feeling the highs of winning and the lows of defeat. I was nervous going into game 5 as the history of the Billy Goat curse hung over my head. I remembered the famous phrase from Bill after his goat Murphy was disallowed from Wrigley Field (think Seeing Eye goat), “The Cubs ain’t gonna win no more. Who stinks now”? Is the curse of the goat true? The answer is NO!

Then I started thinking, does this apply to business and to our perception of situations and employees> Do we think people are cursed because at one time they didn’t follow our rules or do something we asked them to do? Do you say to yourself “Well that’s Bill, that’s just the way he is”. Do we assume behavior and performance of those around us, good and bad? My mom always taught me to give people a second change, find out “the why”. This was always a great lesson and has served me well dealing with people related issues and opportunities.

The premise that I always start with when dealing with people related issues is context, what was the thought process behind the action that was taken.

When dealing with a policy violation, i.e. tardiness or dress code, the context is typically personal choice or circumstance. The employee felt like sleeping in; the employee felt like wearing jeans instead of black pants; or, the employee ran into an accident on the way to work and traffic was at a standstill. This context sheds light on the situation and helps you understand the severity of the circumstance and how you will deal with it. Is it a verbal reminder or a final warning because it is the umpteenth time it has occurred?

When dealing with a performance concern, i.e. judgement, customer service, teamwork, etc. the context is also typically personal choice or circumstance but may also be related to knowledge or leadership. The employee doesn’t like their co-worker and didn’t want to help; the employee was rushed and missed the French fries in the order; or, the employee didn’t know what to do and was not given direction or guidance to lead them to the correct response. The context helps you understand the burden placed on the employee and leadership and what action to take.

– Was the situation “I didn’t feel like it”? If that is the case, it warrants a serious conversation.
– Was the circumstance a mistake? Do you forgive those and allow people to learn?
– Was the circumstance a lack of understanding or training? Do you find a way to mentor, guide and coach?

Now back to the curse, do you make an assumption that the employee “stinks”? Do you determine context and find the root cause behind each situation? The past informs, guides, and limits your decisions and may cause you to be close minded. Employees want a voice; they want to share their side of the story. You may still make the decision you were going to make but you now have a frame of reference to compassionately deal with the employee.

In this time where recruiting has become more difficult, employee engagement is much more important. Engagement is about having each other’s back and that means being open and understanding when dealing with an employee’s performance and behavior.

It’s time to end the curse and be open to a different outcome. GO CUBBIES!