Posts Tagged ‘workplace issues’

How to Stop Poor Performance From Draining your Company

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

I obviously don’t work for your company, but my experience tells me there is a better than average chance that you have subpar performers that you’re letting work at your company and it is draining your company’s productivity, profit, and growth.  I wish I was wrong but I see it everywhere, every day in every industry.

Think about the poor performers in your life.  At work, at school, at church, at the stores you frequent, maybe even at home. Infuriating isn’t.  Missed deadlines, waiting in line, poor customer service, sloppy or slow processes, etc. Do you feel your blood pressure rising?  Believe me, top performers really appreciate having to do more work to cover for their uninspired co-workers. In fact that’s a leading cause of turnover for top performers – burn out over cleaning up the messes made by their slack co-workers AND frustration that their managers will not clean it up.poorperformance

Bruce Tulgan, noted management author and thought leader and past speaker at CAI’s HR Management Conference believes that “undermanagement” is one of the most detrimental phenomenon affecting business today.  He wrote a best-selling book called “It’s OK To Be The Boss.”  Why are so many managers not “being the boss” and letting poor performance slide?   We hear things like…

  • “Well Sally is better than having no one in the job and it’s hard to find good people.”
  • “At our pay Jim is the best we can afford.”
  • “I’m not dealing with this behavior because I know other managers let it slide.”
  • “I don’t have time to deal with Terry.”
  • “Don has been here forever and he’s always been this way, why should I have to deal with it?”

HR is blamed a lot.

  • “Our HR Department won’t let us fire anyone around here.”
  • “I would address it, but HR won’t let me because Joe is in a protected category.”
  • And on and on.

Poor Performance generally comes in three categories:

  1. Don’t know what to do.  Many employees regularly wander around our workplaces not knowing what is expected of them.  This category of poor performance rests with Managers, who simply need to take the time to provide clearer expectations for their employees.  Most people will perform just fine when they know what to do.
  2. Can’t do what you’re asking.  Sometimes we can salvage this “can’t-do” category with training.  Sometimes, though training will not correct the performance and in those cases the employee should be transferred to an open job they can do or they need to go work for someone else.
  3. Won’t do what you’re asking.  This is the most dangerous category.  Employees who won’t do what you’re asking create tremendous problems in the workplace every day.  Whether they vocalize their refusal or utilize more subtle activities, like slowing down, or overlooking things, there is only one solution for these people – they need to leave, and soon.

I once heard it put, hire slow and fire fast.  Good words to live by.  Yet I frequently find companies actually do the opposite – they hire quickly and impulsively and then take forever to separate the problem employee.  Many performance problems are really hiring problems in disguise.  So my advice, take more time assessing candidates. Most HR professionals know within the first five minutes of orientation if a new hire will make it or not.  Why didn’t they uncover that earlier?  HR professionals sometimes tell me the line managers decided to hire the person against HR’s advice.  So who is at fault?  I advise HR professionals to stand their ground and use turnover data to make your case.  And once you know someone is a poor performer, address it quickly. Fairly and respectfully, yes, but quickly.

The time between losing confidence in someone and them leaving is one of the most expensive in a manager’s life.  So if you’re a manager, start being the boss and quit letting poor performance slide and quit hiring people that should not work for your company because you are desperate. Your employees will thank you, because believe me they know who shouldn’t be there and they talk about it and suffer through it every day.  If you’re in HR do not let a lawsuit that will probably never happen overly impact how you deal with problems.  The EEOC actually dismisses two-thirds of all claims filed and only finds cause in about 3% of the charges it receives each year.  However, letting poor performers remain is a real problem that is draining your company every day.  I’m not advocating for a wild west management style absent of warnings and second chances.  I am suggesting we run our companies in a way that maximizes results versus running it out of fear.  After all a rising tide lifts all boats right!

I know this sounds pretty straightforward.  Who doesn’t get this right?  Ask yourself that question the next time as a consumer you have a bad customer experience at the hands of a problem employee.  You’ll be in that situation sometime this week and you’ll ask yourself why that company lets that person treat its customers that way.  Well, for the same reason it’s allowed at your company.  Think about it.

If you need help dealing with problem performance at your company please reach out to our Advice and Resolution team.  They answer thousands of questions each year that deal with performance management.

 

doug

Doug Blizzard brings a wealth of knowledge to CAI, serving as Vice President of Membership. During his first 15 years at CAI he led the firm’s consulting and training divisions and counseled hundreds of clients on HR and Employee Relations issues. If he isn’t speaking at North Carolina conferences, teaching classes on Human Resources or consulting clients on EEO and Affirmative Action, Doug is leading the company’s membership services.

 

When An Employee Has A Serious Complaint

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News & Observer column, The View from HR.

It happens in every workplace. The same serious and unlawful misbehavior we see in our communities sometimes find its way to the job.  People are the greatest asset of an employer but can be the “crabgrass in the lawn of business,” as my friend says.workplaceissues

What should happen when harassment, discrimination, abusive treatment and other serious misbehaviors rear their ugly heads?

Managers, please view a complaint as an opportunity to make a situation better AND the long-term relationship with the victim stronger. Psychologists in workplace studies say that an emotional crisis is a key point where your response can make the employee’s attitude much better OR much worse.  Some even say that the best predictor of whether a problem will end in a lawsuit is how fairly you process the problem, not the problem itself.

Good managers do several things. They embrace the complaint, rather than avoid it, and focus on finding the right solution.  Neither of you caused the problem, so let the chips fall where they may and avoid prejudgment.  You will create a much better investigation and solution if you remain neutral on the outcome.  If you cannot be objective, ask for help.

Follow through with good listening, appropriate pushback to the victim for the whole story, and appropriate speed and discretion. Take any quick steps needed to prevent repeat behavior while you work.  Ideally, keep the victim informed of your progress.  Get help from HR or a mentor.  Follow your company’s complaint process, at a minimum.  Precedent can be important to consider, but avoid a foolish consistency as the saying goes.

Employees making complaints have an equally important role. Follow the complaint policy if there is one, but skip to another manager you trust if needed.  Your manager wants to hear how you feel, but must have facts to investigate.  Focus on the facts.  Who can help support your story?  Bring the problem to a trusted manager sooner rather than later.

Be honest about any part you may have played in the problem or steps you have already taken, good and bad. Have some discretion and give this time to work.  What is your manager going to hear when he or she investigates?  For example, be prepared to hear some things about your performance you may not like (but need to hear) if work quality is an issue.

An important question that employees and managers often fail to ask is: “What is the ideal outcome here?”  I am often surprised at how reasonable employees can be even in serious situations.  They know employers cannot guarantee perfect behavior by all.  But they have the right to expect help when they seek it.

Solutions to early-stage problems handled properly by all can be simple and effective, preserving relationships and protecting careers. Problems that are buried like a bone in the backyard will only get worse with age.

Bruce Clarke c

Bruce Clarke serves as CAI’S President and CEO, and has been with CAI since 2001. Bruce practiced labor and employment law with the national labor law firm of Ogletree Deakins for 18 years. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was selected as one of North Carolina’s Legal Elite by Business North Carolina Magazine. Bruce is 100% committed to helping companies maximize employee engagement and minimize workplace liabilities.

The Employee Incentive That Works Like No Other

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

The one reward that most employees crave, but few get, doesn’t cost anything to provide.

When employers brainstorm ways to reward employees, it’s logical to put compensation, incentives, and bonuses at the top of the list. After all, few people are able to work for free.

But is there a “best” reward—a reward that every employee craves but few receive? Many management teams are in search of just such a reward. CAI is frequently asked to provide managers and HR professionals with low cost, or no cost, ways to reward employees. The blogosphere also is full of lists of ways to reward employees. In fact, past CAI HR Management Conference speaker Dr. Bob Nelson has a book called 1,501 Ways to Reward Employees.  Photo of business partners hands applauding at meeting

These resources suggest everything from pizza parties to extra time off to premium parking spaces. There is nothing wrong with any of these ideas, and the more creative you can be the better. However, there is still a much higher reward that won’t cost you anything and will produce positive employee motivation. Have I piqued your interest?

OK, here it is: The one reward that most employees crave—but few get—and that is almost guaranteed to motivate employees to do good work is quite simply … praise. Praise is a very powerful idea that managers often forget about. Bosses usually are good about recognizing and pointing out bad behavior, but they often forget to recognize good behavior.

Think this sounds like a bunch of “touchy feely” HR stuff? Don’t be so quick to judge. As it turns out, receiving praise actually stimulates a chemical neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine, something we all need. Shortages of dopamine can lead to feelings of frustration, anxiety, and difficulty in learning, all traits we definitely don’t want in employees. But receiving more of the chemical boosts feelings of pleasure and pride, according to a report from Gallup. Once you get that rush, the brain wants more of it, needs it regularly, and instinctively figures out what behaviors result in more praise and thus more dopamine.

So we have a relatively simple concept that produces quick increases in employee motivation that doesn’t cost anything. The workplace must be awash with employee praise, right? In fact, research conducted several years ago by Gallup found that less than one-third of American workers strongly agreed that they had received any praise from a supervisor in the last week. That’s a sad statement about the quality of supervision that many employees receive each day. Employees who think that nobody cares about their work will be less motivated. Some leave the company. Others remain on the payroll but essentially quit working.

There are many reasons for this lack of praise. Some managers don’t regularly praise because they are too busy and just forget about it. Others don’t praise because they don’t receive any praise from their boss either. Some managers worry that recognizing one employee and not another will make it look as if the manager is playing favorites.

To compensate for these problems, some companies institute regular events to recognize employees: “Per company policy, employees will be praised on the second Friday of each month in the cafeteria.” While there’s nothing wrong with company events, they shouldn’t be the only source of praise that employees receive.

How can employers do a better job? First, it’s important to differentiate between appreciation and recognition. Appreciation is the act of expressing gratitude to employees for their positive actions. It is best accomplished through simple expressions or statements: a simple thank you, a card, a pat on the back. Recognition means acknowledging workers in front of their peers for specific accomplishments, actions, or behaviors. It’s important to tailor both of these strategies to each employee’s personality. Some people just don’t like to be called out in public.

Where managers really miss the mark is with frequency. To be most effective, employees need the dopamine rush at least once a week. Noted leadership author Mark Murphy found in a study of more than 500,000 employees that 72% said they were not giving 100% at work. No doubt many were suffering from a lack of dopamine. So make it a goal to show appreciation for each of your employees at least twice each week. And for those employees you feel don’t deserve appreciation? That’s a subject for a future article.

If you just don’t have time to recognize or appreciate your employees on a regular basis, you should take stock of your daily activities to make the time. Remember, genuine praise produces quick increases in employee motivation, and it doesn’t cost you anything. Before you start handing out gift cards, make appreciation and recognition a priority—then watch how morale, motivation, and productivity improve.

Let CAI’s Advice & Resolution team talk you through ways you can build a positive culture.

dougDoug Blizzard brings a wealth of knowledge to CAI, serving as Vice President of Membership. During his first 15 years at CAI he led the firm’s consulting and training divisions and counseled hundreds of clients on HR and Employee Relations issues. If he isn’t speaking at North Carolina conferences, teaching classes on Human Resources or consulting clients on EEO and Affirmative Action, Doug is leading the company’s membership services.

Managers…Don’t Avoid Conflict

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

Of all the skills required to be a successful manager, the art of embracing, sometimes encouraging and then managing conflict is up near the top.  As a manager a good part of your job involves getting people to do things they may not want to do, or work with people they don’t agree with or even like, or discuss ideas that make them mad or go against their beliefs, and on and on. Conflict!  The ability to recognize conflict, understand what’s causing it, and then work through it swiftly will serve you well as a manager. Not dealing with conflict will bring you misery and health problems, and may ultimately lead to your demise.busbox

Conflict is a natural disagreement resulting from individuals or groups that differ in attitudes, beliefs, values or needs.  Some of the main causes include poor communication, differing values, differing interests, scarce resources, personality clashes, poor processes, or poor performance.  While we tend to think of conflict as a negative thing, it can be healthy when managed and can lead to growth, innovation, and new ways of thinking.

Determine Root Cause. Step one in managing conflict is to determine its main cause.  You cannot effectively deal with conflict until you know why it’s occurring.  I realize that statement sounds obvious, who wouldn’t know that right?  Well, as humans we are fast to blame the people involved for the conflict, when many times the situation we’ve placed them in would cause conflict for any two people.  If the situation is at fault, enlist the two people to help redefine the process, or adjust roles, or reallocate resources, or improve the technology, or whatever steps are necessary to move us forward.  Conflict caused by situations can be easier to fix, however you need to fix it.  Ignoring conflict caused by the circumstances of work can grow to a real conflict between people that can be very destructive.

Opposites attract, then attack. For any manager, one of the most difficult situations to deal with is when two very skilled employees just don’t mesh.  They are constantly at each other throats, or perhaps even worse they engage in passive aggressive behavior.  They are constantly talking to other staff members about the other person.  Before you know the entire office is embroiled in this clash, people are taking sides, other arguments start…work productivity suffers.  I’ve seen these situations get so bad that some employees leave because the workplace has become so toxic.  If you don’t think you have any personality conflicts on your team then you are simply not paying attention.  It’s inevitable when you combine so many different people together that you will have conflicts.  Here are some ideas to help you resolve the out-of-control conflict like I described above.

Recognize the conflict. Don’t ignore it and hope it will go away.  First, talk to both employees individually.  There are two sides to every story so get to understand both viewpoints.  Your job is to just ask questions and listen.  Don’t judge or argue.  You may get lucky and find that a misunderstanding is causing the conflict.  Or you may find that in fact one of the individuals is just plain wrong and if so you can address that situation.  More than likely, however, they are both right and both wrong and resolving this conflict will require give and take from both of them.

Set Expectations. Make it clear to both individuals that the conflict and resulting behaviors must stop immediately.  Ask for each person’s agreement to work to resolve the conflict. But one if one of them thinks they are so “right” they refuse to change?  In that case, you’ll need to face the reality that they may just need to go work somewhere else.  You can’t progress through the conflict if both individuals aren’t committed to resolving it.

Meeting of the minds. After talking to both employees individually and getting their agreement to resolve the conflict, it’s time to get them together with you as the facilitator.  Ultimately, you can’t force two people to get along, it’s up to them to either choose to work together or not.  Share your observations.  Tell them clearly what is expected of them in terms of how they need to behave towards one another.  If you have a conduct policy, remind them of that.  You have to be crystal clear on the behavior(s) you will not tolerate going forward, how they are affecting their own performance and that of the team.   You always want to avoid attacking personalities.  Focus on the behaviors.  Sometimes the realization that their livelihood is at stake will shock people back to reality.  Most importantly, make the two employees accountable for sorting out their differences. Get their suggestions on what they can do to resolve the conflict and improve working relationships.   Help them uncover ways to work together differently. Help them see unproductive and unhealthy behaviors.  If this meeting is going nowhere, you may want to enlists the help of another party like your Human Resources Professional or perhaps even an EAP if you have either.  Or you may be able to transfer one of the employees to another department if you’re larger, though that tactic is usually only a short term fix.  Ultimately, if the conflict can’t be resolved you may end up losing both employees, and you know that’s OK.  If they can’t resolve, the emotional toll this conflict is having on them, their families, and the rest of your team isn’t worth it.  Everyone will thank you for it.

One last word. Many times conflict in your workplace is caused by you not doing your job.  Avoiding problems, tolerating poor performers, not providing enough tools and resources for your people, creating confusing processes, not communicating and the like all lead to negative outcomes.  The best single thing you can do to have a healthy environment with lower amounts of negative conflict is to talk to your employees on a regular basis. Get to know them.  Show them you care.  Believe me it will make your life and theirs’ a lot better, and when problems do come up, they can be resolved faster and more effectively since you’ve already opened up the communication channels.  Don’t be one of those managers that’s too busy to manage.  Think about it!

If you need help working through a conflict, call our Advice & Resolution team.  They can facilitate a solution to your conflict issue.  Also, sometimes an outside perspective can help break a log jam.

doug

Doug Blizzard brings a wealth of knowledge to CAI, serving as Vice President of Membership. During his first 15 years at CAI he led the firm’s consulting and training divisions and counseled hundreds of clients on HR and Employee Relations issues. If he isn’t speaking at North Carolina conferences, teaching classes on Human Resources or consulting clients on EEO and Affirmative Action, Doug is leading the company’s membership services.

Avoid Workplace Drama and Spend More Time on Ideas

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News & Observer column, The View from HR.

“Management by walking around” is a time-tested method to stay connected with the real work of an organization. When you listen, learn and create unstructured conversations, everyone is better informed.  Sometimes problems are solved or confusion clarified on the spot.Workplace Communication and Gossip

There is another free-form type of conversation between managers and employees which is not productive: management by gossiping around.

Workplace gossip is generally rumor or exaggeration about others, especially about their behaviors. It can relieve stress, and deflect or assign blame.  It might just be a way to make the gossipers feel better about themselves.

I wish it was uncommon, but we see evidence that managers gossip with employees too often. Whether a misguided attempt to create a relationship, or just blowing off steam, gossip is harmful.

When managers gossip with employees, about employees, or about other managers, several bad things happen.

Loss of Respect

The gossiping manager loses every time. Employees hold managers to a higher standard of behavior than their own peers.  A manager who gossips cannot be trusted with personal details and private information.  A manager who gossips will gossip about you!  What does the manager know about you that could be embarrassing or misunderstood?

Loss of Influence

Managers get things done through a combination of formal authority and informal influence. Sometimes unilateral decisions must be made, but real advances and engagement happen in the influence zone.  Gossiping managers lose the high ground that provides a foundation for influence.  Managers who gossip trade a momentary rush for long-term loss of effectiveness.

Loss of Focus

Gossip is idle conversation, not problem solving or relationship-building. Gossiping managers would rather talk about an employee who may be part of a problem than resolve that problem.  Gossip is easier than real work and it prevents true progress.

Loss of Opportunity

Employees with real work problems will not come to gossiping managers for help. Why reach out to a manager who gossips about members of the team?  Managers trying to be “one of the peeps” by joining these high calorie/low nutrition conversations hurt their own chances to learn about real issues.

Future Limits

Finally, gossiping managers put a lid on their own careers. The only thing worse than a loose-lipped manager is a senior leader who talks trash.  A fish rots from the head down and senior leadership sets the tone.  Good leadership will not ask bad leadership to join its team.

Employees living with a gossiping manager have choices to make. Start by avoiding gossip.  Silence is a good response to inappropriate comments.  Even better is a question:  “If that is true, what can you and I do to make the situation better?”

Employees suffering with gossiping teammates might be even more proactive: “Gossip will not make anything better.  What positive steps can we take?”

An old proverb applies: “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people”. Spend more time on ideas and events.

CAI can help your organization grow and succeed by developing your most important asset…your people.  We offer an abundance of learning options and specialize in management development, HR and professional development.

Bruce Clarke c
Bruce Clarke serves as CAI’S President and CEO, and has been with CAI since 2001. Bruce practiced labor and employment law with the national labor law firm of Ogletree Deakins for 18 years. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was selected as one of North Carolina’s Legal Elite by Business North Carolina Magazine. Bruce is 100% committed to helping companies maximize employee engagement and minimize workplace liabilities.