A manager approached me this week after a work session to seek my advice on how he should address one of his employees. This employee is increasingly becoming trouble; he’s more often than not selecting which projects and which elements of each project to work on.
When the manager has asked the employee to redirect his efforts, the employee has replied in patronizing tones in front of other staff members. This employee has also failed to complete the primary project his position was created to address more than four years ago. Now other team members are complaining about this employee too.
The manager asked me, “What can I do except fire him?”
Without knowing specifically what this manager has been doing to guide and develop this employee over the past four years, it’s hard to give solid advice. However, given what the manager shared, it doesn’t sound as if he has been doing a key part of his job as a manager. So, here are a few general things I shared with him:
First – What kind of relationship have you developed with this employee over the past four years?
If you’ve not developed one that allows for you to talk honestly with him about his performance, your expectations, and specific project needs, you’ve put yourself at a disadvantage and you’ve not done any favors for this employee.
As a manager, you have an obligation to immediately work on developing a professional rapport with each employee you hire which will enable you to regularly and honestly discuss your performance expectations, needs, and concerns with each of them. That first, basic step will go a long way in avoiding situations like this. Without that type of foundation to work from, you need to consider a second step that’s often more difficult for many managers…
Second – Start holding yourself and your employees accountable to do the jobs you are all paid to do.
For you as the manager, part of your job is to ensure your employees do the jobs they were hired to do and that you help them determine the key priorities of their jobs and then to do them. If this means you have to over-rule your employees’ opinions on what is most important, so be it. That’s part of your job — and that’s how you help them succeed at theirs — by doing what’s important when it’s important.
So if you need to have a conversation with an employee who has differing opinions than you, do it. The conversations need to occur sooner rather than later to avoid future lingering problems that become an entire department’s problem.
Third – Another key idea to consider in situations like this is to also ensure that all of your employees understand that most work environments do not revolve around the desires and needs of any one employee.
Most work environments are focused on doing what’s important and right for the customers,the company, and all of the employees — not what’s important to any one employee. The saying, “It’s not about you; it’s about them” helps sum up this idea. Help your employees understand you are there to help them help the company, the customers, and their colleagues. When you can all focus on that, everyone will benefit.
As you reflect on this situation, ask yourself, “Am I doing my job? Am I building comfortable work relationships with my employees? Can I honestly talk with them about my concerns and expectations? Do I hold them accountable for certain tasks and performance standards? Do I support them individually, while ensuring the entire organization moves forward?”
Being a manager is a tough job, but someone has to do it. Do it well.