When managing people, it is very unlikely that at any time you will have a whole team who get on with doing a great job, very well. If you are in that situation then, as I was once warned: ‘it could mean, you’re not on top of what is happening within your team and there could be something big around the corner that you will need to mop up soon!’
So the first thing is setting out your expectations for your staff and remembering to do this as part of their induction when they newly arrive in your team. (At the beginning of my managerial career I was given the advice – when taking over a team or taking on a new team member ‘go in with very high standards and expectations because you can always come down, however it is much more difficult to raise standards.’ This was very good advice that I use throughout my life.)
Set out their personal objectives and how these fit into the team and company objectives; good clear directions are needed at this stage.
You need to be close to your staff
- Getting to really know them;
- what makes them tick;
- what motivates them;
- what style are they (who they may clash with in the team);
- what their strengths and weaknesses are; and
- how they like to be managed.
So you know all this and you have set out objectives – behavioural and performance related – as well as expectations, and yet you have someone who is not performing in the way they need to or their behaviour is not acceptable. What do you do?
The most important thing to do in this situation…
This is a time for fact only! There could be very sensitive reasons behind the behaviour or the poor performance. Going in like ‘a bull in a china shop’ will just exacerbate the problem. You need to sit down face to face and sensitively ask – and listen to – the reasons behind the problems from the employee’s viewpoint.
If there is a sensitive personal problem then you can easily negotiate with the employee a planned way forward that will suit both parties.
However if you are in the position where the employee has no real reason behind poor performance/behaviour then you need to establish if this is a training or development issue, or if maybe they are in the wrong job. Establish an agreed set of short-term objectives that should be reviewed on a 2-4 week period. You can reset as many times as you wish, however this may be very unfair on the employee, who can then start to believe this is normal working practice.
If there is no improvement in poor performance/behaviour then it is time to turn to your disciplinary policy and procedures. This policy is there to help you turn the performance/behaviour of the employee around and some employees need this very serious procedure to make them realise how important their performance/behaviour is, even if you have been clear about the importance from the start.
This is a very time consuming and stressful process for everyone involved. The day you start to enjoy this process is the day you should give up the job!
Remember to take this process very seriously. Detail is so important, as mistakes made at this stage can lead to enormous costs to the company both in time and fines. An HR team is a vital resource to keep you right on the details and procedures.
This is why it is so much better to set out clear agreed objectives and expectations right up front, as they will stand you in good stead for the future.