Hard Decisions and performance

Managing staff, especially if you are also running a business is never easy, but sometimes the decisions you have to take can result in putting someone out of work. An old management mentor of mine once said “the moment it gets easy to dismiss employees is the moment you should stop doing it”. Most people don’t enjoy conflict so they let things slide when it comes to employees especially if they work closely with the employee on a daily basis, and if they have known the employee for years it gets even harder.

The problem is over time the manager’s frustration grows with the poor performance or behaviour of the employee. The issue that finally causes them to act is actually quite trivial when looked at from the outside, worse still it seems trivial to the employee who has never had any inkling of there being a problem in the past.

I’m not advocating that every little thing is picked up by the manager and turned into an “issue”, it’s just that if work is not being performed how you want it to be, you should tell the person responsible and tell them how you want it done. Yes they may be a bit defensive at first but in most cases they will do what you want them to. If they don’t then it is clear that a more formal approach is needed. However in my experience most issues are dealt with by the initial chat.

A client who put up with someone who always made a meal of the morning tea and toast run to the local café, finally lost their patience when they were late for work after lunch and called me wanting to sack them immediately. I asked them that the first thing they needed to find out was why the person was late, but I also took them through the disciplinary procedure and what they needed to do if they wanted to give out a formal warning. They were all fired up to give the employee a good “going over”, but immediately felt deflated when the employee explained that the reason they were late was that they had been involved in an accident and the police had asked them to stay behind to give their details! (Yes I did advise them to check the story was true!)

After this any attempt to raise the issue of their work rate would seem churlish to say the least.

I used to start all new staff off with a list of the things I wanted them, to do and what I liked to see in my employees, then I told them what irritated me (mainly poor timekeeping and a refusal to accept responsibility for their actions). I also told them that now they knew what got up my nose, any transgression in these areas would be quickly dealt with. I would then make sure that either I or one of my assistants spoke with them every few months to tell them what we thought of them (and it was mostly good stuff). We rarely had performance issues after the first six months of employment as those who couldn’t do the job usually moved on.

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