I just finished reading Jim’s article on dealing with incompetent people. Here are some thoughts.
I think substandard performers fall into three categories.
First are folks who have naturally low abilities in the area that they are working. Usually these are very good people who have shortfalls beyond their control. What I’ve seen is that their co-workers willingly fill in the gaps. The management challenge here is to be sure these folk don’t get into a position where they have no help. This may mean having a heart to heart talk with the employee (union reps, etc.) to freeze him/her in a specific position below a level where they have to work independently. Handled properly, it can work. Can you say “kid gloves?”
Second are folks who have the ability but not the will to perform. There are countless reasons for this behavior. But behavior it is none the less. If there is a performance evaluation system in place, managers should use it to build a case. In the process you may find the reasons behind the poor performance and allow the person to correct them. At the very least you’ll find out how strong or weak your performance evaluation system really is.
Third are people who are dishonest. These are the toughest in my opinion because the people involved are probably pretty smart and have gotten away with illegal or wrong doing for a while. However, I’ve also found that given enough time dishonest people eventually make a mistake and get themselves caught. This obviously takes patience, which may be a luxury you can’t afford. Perhaps an outside resource could help like an audit, or random drug testing, or the police. I know the occasional visit by the sheriff & his drug dog at school is a huge deterrent. Dare I say no one brings drugs to school?
So there’s one man’s opinion.
Prattville, Alabama, USA
As a post script, none of the above processes are easy. They are rocky roads filled with pit falls and sharp fall offs. I’ve experienced all three, the third with a person that was definitely scary. I’ve also found that if you treat everyone with respect, you are ahead of the game. At times it is hard to do, particularly if you feel strongly that the individual doesn’t deserve your respect. Grit your teeth and do it anyway. Practice makes perfect.
Last week, we asked "What techniques do you use to assure yourself that your team is performing up to or beyond standard?" Responses included:
Setting realistic objectives with quantifiable results and milestones as appropriate - then sharing feedback with the team about achievement, lack of achievement, reasons for lack of achievement including barriers that might have been of my making, and agreeing on an action plan to the next milepost.
Direct observation; checking their work output.
1) Progress reports on projects. 2) Specific, measurable goals and objectives contained in a Performance Management Document that is reviewed at least every 6 months. 3) Walkabouts - mill tours. informal questions about projects / tasks 4) body language of the other team when a person's name arises - as a clue to your reference of "where there is smoke, there is fire."
Set clear expectations and WRITE THEM DOWN and SHARE THEM WITH TEAM MEMBERS. Routinely assess performance against expectations and communicate results with team members. Via actual vs expected performance gap analysis, develop corrective action plans. Repeat until expectations delivered or problem(s) eliminated.
Just as you can make individual assignments that are a stretch for this person, you can make them a key member(or even leader) of a team with a tough and urgent task. The results will be obvious and the peer pressure is likely to either bring the issue to a point that you have the goods to take action or the person could even (although suprisingly) rise to the occasion. A performance evaluation using peer input will give you real evidence to use in either dismissing or demoting a slacker. Be sure to choose the peer reviewers so that your bias cannot be used as a defense. The members of the above team(s) are logical choices since they have real and recent experience with this person. It is also possible to include customers and vendors as performance reviewers. The criteria are not the same, but if you know or suspect the fire is burning there, it might be provide valuable information. However, if this slacker has buddies on the outside that he has curried favor, this could backfire.
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