One of the tougher challenges any manager can face is coaching problem employees.
It takes a real commitment of time and planning – and more than a little aggravation. But it’s what you have to do if you’re not going to let them go.
To boost your chance of success, it helps to develop an approach that takes the burden for change off the manager and puts it where it should be, on the employee.
It will mean reaching into your training bag for those age-old tools of every good manager: accountability and responsibility.
1) Establish Accountability
Accountability is crucial to turning problem employees around, and it’s a two-way street. Employees have to be accountable for what they do and how they behave, and so do good leaders. Here are some ideas for establishing accountability.
Create A No-Surprises Environment.
Make it clear that surprises are negative – they don’t help anyone’s situation. People have to know that you expect to be kept informed of what they’re doing and why. Similarly, you have to make a commitment to avoid surprises with problem employees – actually with any employee – but especially with the problem ones. That takes a conscious effort a to communicate, which should be second-nature to any good manager. But don’t shy from over-communicating, either. If a problem employee is surprised that he or she is getting a poor performance evaluation, then the manager has dropped the ball somewhere. The employee should know what’s coming. And when that employee is making strides and improving, that should be front page news, too.
This is another two-way street. Let employees know you won’t accept excuses for failing to meet standards and that you won’t offer any. If employees hear excuses from you, they accept that as the norm for themselves. Turn “I’ll try” into “I will.” Getting a commitment to try is a good first step. After that, immediately push for results. “I need to be able to count on you for this, OK?”
What you require of one employee, you should require of all employees. Everyone is punctual. Everyone picks up after themselves. Everyone pitches in when someone needs a hand. What you’re looking for from the problem employee is performance on a level with what you expect from good employees.
2) Shift Responsibility To TheEmployee
If you want people to change, then you have to shift that responsibility onto them. It’s the difficult employee who has to change, not you.
Tell people exactly what you want, in the way of performance or behavior, or both. And make sure the standards can be observed and measured.That’s why managers are advised not to say things like, “Fix your attitude.” It’s too vague. There’s no standard of measurement for that. But you could say “I want you to show a greater willingness to get the job done.” While that speaks to attitude, it can actually be measured when the person does the job, as well as if the employees expresses a genuine desire to do the job well.
If you push someone out to sea alone in a boat, you probably shouldn’t expect good results. Instead, decide what training is appropriate and reasonable for the employee, then do it.
Let the employee know the consequences – the bad ones for failing to change and the good ones for implementing change. That gives them a goal to shoot for.
The road to change is not just a start-and-finish path. There’s a whole area in between where people need to be kept abreast of their progress, or lack of it. The more often you let them know, the better your chances of success and getting through to them.
Ask the employee what’s preventing change. If you can control and remove the obstacle, do so. If it’s up to the employee to remove the obstacle, make that clear, too.