my staff has been held to a low bar; am I asking too much of them now?

A reader writes:

When you are managing others, how do you know when you are expecting too much or setting expectations too high?

I “inherited” a department of people who I don’t feel were adequately managed for several years.  Basically, as long as they showed up and were physically present, then nothing more was expected of them.  The more I try to push to get higher quality work from them, the more I get disappointed in the results.  I do feel bad in one respect because I don’t think they were ever adequately coached to understand that the bare minimum was not enough.  So as I’m constantly being disappointed in results, how do I determine if the current people are not up to my expectations versus making sure that my expectations are not too high for the people in the department?  I’ve worked on trying to teach and show what I’m looking for, but in most cases the results are still not there.  Mind you, the results I’m looking for are basic things like proofreading documents, spell checking, writing clearer documents and following up with customers to make sure their issues were resolved.

In addition, how do you justify asking for /expecting better results from your people when you know that ownership will not reward better results with increased compensation?  Even before the economic downturn, the company I worked for was difficult to get pay increases from. It would routinely be 18-24 months between basic increases (2-4%).  For the last couple of years, there haven’t been any pay increases.  It’s hard for me to push people who 1) never had expectations/results explained or enforced and 2) know that the company is difficult to get increased compensation from so they aren’t motivated to try harder due to that fact.

First of all, this is the wrong question to ask:

How do I determine if the current people are not up to my expectations versus making sure that my expectations are not too high for the people in the department?

Your expectations need to be rooted in what’s reasonable for a good performer (or better yet, a great performer, but we’ll take this interim step first), not what’s reasonable for a specific person or people. If you have a mediocre team, asking what’s reasonable for them will just get you mediocre results. Instead, ask what’s reasonable for you to accomplish with a good, or great, team. Then make that bar explicitly clear, help people see what steps they need to take to meet it, and explain the consequences of not meeting it. Give them some help — and a bit of time — to reach it, but if they don’t, you need to bring in people who will.

As for how you can ask for better performance when you know the company won’t give substantial raises, you can ask for it because getting a raise isn’t the only thing that justifies meeting a minimum performance standard. Having continued employment is what should motivate meeting a minimum performance standard. And I can assure you that if your current staff doesn’t want to do basics like spellchecking or following up with customers, there are an awful lot of unemployed people who would be glad to have the chance.

(Of course, it’s possible that your staff’s workload is so crushingly high that they truly don’t have the time to do these basics. But I don’t get the sense from your letter that that’s at all the case, so I’m assuming for the sake of this answer that it’s not.)

I suggest that you sit down with your staff and talk to them straightforwardly. Tell them that you understand that expectations and standards have been different in the past, but that the department is currently falling short in some major ways — mistake-ridden documents and correspondence, poor customer relations, and so forth. Explain that things are going to be changing, and you hope they’ll be a part of that change. Paint a picture of the type of department that you want to have a few months from now. Talk about the things that will need to be done differently so that that can happen. Ask people what kind of help they need to get there, and offer help where it’s reasonable, but hold the bar high.

Then, start managing them to that higher bar: Check in often, review samples of their work, give feedback regularly, and point out when and where the bar isn’t being met. If you’re not seeing significant improvement within a few weeks, you need to start setting and enforcing consequences, which in this case will mean warning people (individually, not as a group) that they risk termination if you don’t see fairly quick changes. (And “fairly quick” means weeks, not months.)

Now, you may get push-back from staffers used to the old way of doing things, telling you that your expectations are unreasonable — that there’s no time to follow up with customers, proofread documents, etc. But barring a crushing workload that would lend credence to that argument, you need to hold firm. Say things like, “I hear you that it’s a higher bar, but it’s one I’m committed to seeing us meet.”

In other words, give them the chance to improve and be clear about what that looks like, and offer help and support where you can, but be ready to replace them if they still aren’t delivering what you need. Believe me, you will be able to find people who will be glad to meet your very reasonable expectations.

One last thing: Make sure to keep your boss in the loop about all this. You’re likely to have some turnover in the coming months, and you and your boss should be aligned behind the scenes about what’s going on and why. Good luck!

You can read an update to this post here.

{ 39 comments… read them below }

  1. Nate

    I think I’ve said this before, but I can’t stand it when people don’t spell check what they distribute. That’s attention to detail at the most basic level.

    If I were in your shoes, I would start to seriously assess the current skills of the staff you have and consider the cost benefit of replacing them with individuals who are willing to do more work and have more attention to detail for the same pay.

    It’s like Alison said, there’s scores of people just waiting to be hired that are willing to work hard for you without any incentive. They would be happy just to have a job.

    1. Grammar Police

      I do not like people misspelling stuff either. But I find it humorous when people who are so adamant about spelling blow basic grammar. After all there ARE scores of people just waiting to be hired that are willing to work hard for you without any incentive. LOL. Sorry, Nate, just had to point out the singular in the first half of your sentence with the plural in the second half.

      Seriously, if they are not wanting to do spell check, if they are not wanting to follow up with the clients, then they are not meeting the bare minimum. They either need to improve or they need to go. My fear is that the last paragraph of Alison’s response may be a problem. If ownership will not provide decent cost of living adjustments on a yearly basis, they may buck firing these people because they have already found them willing to be abused. Better poor help who are willing to be abused than the uncertainty of competent help who may not be so willing to be treated poorly by ownership.

  2. Dawn

    I agree that using the spell check is one of the most basic things. So many people don’t use it. We have someone at our place who frequently drops letters off words (returned vs. return), uses the wrong version of the word (which vs. witch), and basically can’t string together a complete sentence. It makes him look lazy, incompetent, and uneducated.

    I think the OP has her work cut out for her. People who are used to pretty much doing whatever they want, which seems to be almost nothing, will be resistant to change; however, those that work hard to meet the new bar are usually the keepers.

  3. Kimberlee

    Grammar Police: I think you’ve got something to that last point, unfortunately. Good management will realize that it’s better to shell out some raises and have greater productivity than to get away with abusing poor employees and getting little in return. Unfortunately, so few managers are good managers. And especially in a situation like this, upper management must either be totally incompetent and uninterested in productivity, or too removed from any understanding of the work their employees do to understand that the work quality is extremely poor. Both bad signs. I’ve become very interested in how many problems at the bottom level of an organization are really rooted in the top… I didn’t use to believe that, but I’ve seen it enough now to worry that this situation might not be ameliorated by replacements at the bottom.

    1. anonymous

      As one of those people at the bottom, I have to say: THANK YOU for recognizing this!

      The company for which I work does not, so nothing changes, and those at the bottom continue to be abused, and nothing changes.

      That’s why I’m looking for a new job.

  4. Mike C.

    There are two things you need to ensure success:

    1. Make sure your expectations are clear and concrete.
    2. Give your team the tools they need to succeed.

    Spelling is a trivial issue, but with other proofreading issues you may want to grab a few copies of Strunk & White (or whichever style book is appropriate for your industry). With regards to following up with customers, set out clear guidelines as to when this should happen, how often it should happen, and what form this should take.

    As to “making documents more clear”, that’s incredibly vague. You need to make sure that your employees understand exactly what you mean by that, or they will never meet your standards.

    There’s nothing wrong with holding the bar high so long as you make it possible for them to reach it.

    1. KellyK

      Good points. Concrete examples of what’s problematic in current documents, contrasted with what you want to see, would help a lot.

    2. fposte

      I also find that the actual methodology of proofreading isn’t something people know inherently, so it may not just be a matter of giving them a source for finding out what’s right, it’s identifying a procedure for doing the checking, whether it be reading aloud, second-reading, verifying names, etc.

  5. KellyK

    Your expectations need to be rooted in what’s reasonable for a good performer (or better yet, a great performer, but we’ll take this interim step first), not what’s reasonable for a specific person or people. If you have a mediocre team, asking what’s reasonable for them will just get you mediocre results. Instead, ask what’s reasonable for you to accomplish with a good, or great, team. Then make that bar explicitly clear, help people see what steps they need to take to meet it, and explain the consequences of not meeting it. Give them some help — and a bit of time — to reach it, but if they don’t, you need to bring in people who will.

    I particularly like this. In addition to what’s reasonable, another question to ask yourself is what’s *necessary.* What has to happen might be different from what’s reasonable to expect. That is, it’s reasonable to expect that everyone spell-check and proofread anything that goes out for public consumption, all the time, but a customer may care more about a prompt and helpful response to their question than whether the follow-up e-mail uses their/there/they’re correctly.

    For pretty much every expectation, you can identify how important it is in your current situation by asking what happens if this continues to not be met. Then compare that against the effort and expense of hiring someone new and training them. This can make it easier to justify your expectations to yourself, which will help you enforce them with your team.

    The other thing to consider with proofreading specifically is that not everyone is good at it, and spellcheck isn’t a perfect solution. I’m not suggesting that you let people get away with sloppy, misspelled documents, but it might make more sense to run certain documents through someone who *does* have skills in that area than to expect everyone to develop those skills. There are bright people who are horrible spellers, and if they’re strong performers in other areas, it may not make sense to let them go for that reason. (If they just *don’t bother,* that’s different.)

    If it seems appropriate, you could designate a team proofreader. You could also just tell people you expect them to put out documents that are clear and well-written, and that anyone who has trouble doing that needs to take it upon themselves to get a coworker to look over their writing.

    Good luck with it; it sounds like a really tough spot to be in.

  6. SME

    As someone said above, the proofing problem might be easily solved by having one person take charge of it. When I first started at my current position, I was appalled at the spelling and grammar being used not only on client correspondence, but on media pieces, emails, and postings on the web. Since the people I work with don’t tend to excel in that area, I just took charge and appointed myself the Proof Reader of Everything, and now everything we send out is, if not perfect, at least not riddled with glaring errors. I’m happy, because I don’t have to cringe at the image my company is putting out there, and everyone I work with is happy, because they don’t have to worry about mastering a skill that’s difficult for them. It might help you to try that approach!

    1. Mike C.

      In the science world, we have a formalized system for this known as Quality Control/Quality Assurance. The key here is that you have someone who has not worked directly on the project to look it over, and only send it out once it has been signed for. Otherwise it’s sent back for corrections.

      This isn’t done as a way to punish or embarrass people – we all make mistakes sometimes! You don’t grade people on the number of mistakes they find, but rather the two parts work as a team and they are jointly responsible for the final report/project/task.

      If the issue is ultimately quality, consider instituting a formal quality control system. It’s a pain to start, but once things get going it’s fast and systematically increases the quality of whatever you are producing.

      1. anonymous

        I agree with this. My company does this, too. (Similar industry.)

        I think it’s a great idea for any company in any industry, personally, but a lot of companies don’t seem to want to bother.

        Heck, even media needs it nowadays, it seems!

  7. Sara Jo

    I think this letter rubbed me the wrong way. You “inherited” this team. You had already judged the team’s performance without giving them a chance. It sounds like you want everyone to be perfect and have a skill set that they may not have. This does not mean that they are not valuable. Each of those people understand the business and are familiar with the work you do. They all have strengths and you need to find ways they can complement each other and play on those strengths and give them a chance before you fire the whole team. I think KellyK’s idea to let the employees with good grammar proof read and take on that responsibility is genius. It will allow that person to showcase one of their strengths, give you more credibility for recognizing the positive and build a more positive working environment. I think it is a little naive to think that raises are be all end all to motivation and that raises would be the only thing that could “fix” the issues on this team. I would rather be happy and fulfilled by working with an amazing team then make a lot of money. As a manager you have the power to create those dynamics within your team. It sounds like you inherited the team and immediately started trying to clean house without developing credibility. While change isn’t comfortable I think your negative perspective of the team might be showing through to the team members. If I had a boss who didn’t make an effort to learn the systems we had in place or be part of the team and who devalued my work from the beginning, I think I would have a hard time too. I think the biggest portion of what you CAN control in this situation is your attitude and you reaction to your employees. How are you giving feedback? It sounds like you are very frustrated by this team. Are you approaching each issue as an learning opportunity or are you approaching it as a grave mistake? Don’t focus on the negative. What is positive about your team and how do you enhance those aspects? What can you do to make their work easier? How can you remove barriers? How can you restructure the team or the work so that people are doing what their best at?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I didn’t get the sense that he immediately leapt to those conclusions. He didn’t say how long he’s been there, but I got the sense that it’s been a while. I agree that managers should approach people constructively, but they also need to set expectations, hold a high bar, and have consequences for when it’s not met. His highest priority can’t be finding a way to keep these people just for the sake of keeping them; it needs to be finding a way to get great results. If that can be done with the current team, great — but he needs to be prepared for the reality that maybe it can’t.

  8. Ask a Manager Post author

    There’s a lot of good advice here about dealing with the proofing problem, but let’s also not lose sight of the fact that this isn’t really about proofing — according to the letter-writer, it’s about a staff who’s doing the bare minimum across the board; proofing is one symptom of many, it sounds like!

  9. Anonymous

    “I agree that using the spell check is one of the most basic things. So many people don’t use it. We have someone at our place who frequently drops letters off words (returned vs. return), uses the wrong version of the word (which vs. witch), ”

    Spell check won’t catch those errors, since the wrong word is spelled correctly. (Grammar check may or may not.) I prefer skipping spell check since I have a habit of dropping letters. Without spell check I have to read a document closely, and in my experience it has shortened the overall editing time.

    1. Dawn

      I totally realize that there any many things spell check doesn’t catch. I should have clarified that this person ALSO has poor spelling skills, outside of the issues I mentioned. Sorry for the confusion.

      I agree, proofing is just a small part of the other issues OP mentioned.

  10. 3 + 5

    While I agree it is important to check your work for quality, I think the real problem here is that the OP is trying to change an established workplace tradition. In this case, the tradition is minimal work for the pay. Unless a manager is willing to “clean house”, changing an established custom is enormously difficult. It isn’t simply a matter of sending someone to proofreading training. (I think all of us have at some time been in a training event where there is someone there who clearly would not have chosen to be and what a downer that attendee is!)

    If I was the OP, I would start with a list of things that need improvement, prioritize the list, and then create a timeline. Creating a great team can take years. Establish clear endpoints where I know we have achieved a milestone, and plan for rewards. Maybe it’s pizza lunch day on my dime, or something else?

    I think it is less about the team than about the manager. A great manager will always have a great team, because great teams don’t spring into being, they are created. Step by step.

  11. Joey

    I’m going to disagree with Alison that you should only give them weeks to meet a significantly higher bar. I think you need to be more flexible than that depending on how long the underperformers have been underperforming. Here’s my rationale- isn’t it kind of unfair to surprise (and it is a surprise)these employees and tell them that their previously acceptable work is now unacceptable without giving them a reasonable amount of time to improve. The money question is do you really think it’s reasonable to expect drastic improvement in a couple of weeks. That’s almost like determining the final score before the game is played. I say somewhere between 30-90 days to improve sounds more appropriate.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I think we’re actually talking about a similar timeframe.

      You have the initial talk and then you give them a few weeks to improve. If you’re not seeing improvement, then you have the warning talk and they get another few weeks. So that’s a total of six weeks, minimum.

  12. The Communicator

    I was interested in hearing the answers to this scenario because I am in the same situation (actually 7 months in) having inherited a similar group. A few things that I’d like to add:

    – I did a 3 month assessment of my staff’s roles and responsibilities. I then benchmarked against three factors: 1. job descriptions for similar positions inside and outside the company; 2. benchmarked against core competencies identified by an industry association (that has an accredited program based on skills) and 3. career pathing – if jobs needed to be “raised higher” or restructured, would we be creating a future for these people? In other words, if someone is coached to be a better proofreader, what’s next for them?

    – I’m not sure if this was mentioned in previous posts, but the question that also needs to be asked is “what does the organization/business/company need?”. Is it people who can be cross-trained? People who don’t need to be micromanaged because delivery of results is expected quicker? Knowing the answer to this question will clarify if it’s higher or lower expectations this manager should have. At the end of the day, the manager is still accountable for his team so if they underperform, s/he will be seen as a failure.

  13. Louis

    You can’t really expect to change a low performing team into a high performing one overnight.

    I work in a government organisation where fireing someone is nearly impossible (you need a minimum of 2 years + written warning + proff that you tryed to train the person + …).

    The way to work when you have very little operating margin is to focus on small but constant improvement. If you try to put the bar too high too fast you will burn yourself with your staff.

    You need to pick your fight so to speak. If spell checking is your biggest issue, focus on that. Make it your top priority and don’t let anything slide with that issue but just maintain statu quo for the rest. After a few weeks, they will adapt because it easier to please you on that one point that fight you (people follow the path of least resistance).

    Once you manage to fix one issue, just devote “maintenance level” of energy toward it and focus on the next issue.

    You will manage to change the team that way but it will take some time.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      No, no, no! I can’t let the government be the standard by which we judge effective management. The government is totally hamstrung by how hard they’ve made it to fire people. The private sector doesn’t have that handicap, and can actually hold people accountable — and it should.

      1. Louis

        I agree with you on the principle, if you have the possibility, then holding the people accountable is the best choice.

        But you have to take into account the environment and adapt your management strategy accordingly. If your range of action is limited, either because of company policy or lack of backbone higher up, then you have to work with the actions that are available to you.

        I have had success in transforming a team with small but constant gradual imporvement. But it did took me two years to do what I could have done in 3 month in an optimal environement.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yep. It comes down to what your most important priority is — is it getting great results, reasonably quickly, or is it finding a way to work with the people you have?

          I come from the nonprofit world, where we’d be irresponsible to our donors and the communities we serve if we took two years to get results from employees, when we could get results in three months if we brought in better performers. I’m all for giving the people you have a chance to shine, but if they’re not doing it fairly quickly, I’m going to bring in people who will — because the impact on my results will be huge, and that has real-world impact.

          (I’d argue that same should be true for the government, but I know they don’t operate that way.)

  14. Jennifer

    As always, I appreciate your comments and advice, Alison.

    What would your advice be in a unionized environment – where the supervisor/manager doesn’t have the power to let employees go?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Inability to enforce consequences means inability to hold people accountable … means inability to manage. So my advice, unfortunately, would be: Don’t take a managerial job in a place where they’re not going to give you the authority you need to truly get things done.

      1. Jennifer

        Thanks, Alison.

        This is my first professional position and I supervise a small team (6 people). The whole organisation seems to be similar to what you describe: no one willing to enforce consequences, hold people accountable, manage. The morale within the organisation is quite low (primarily due to the lack of management). I think it would be fair to say it’s a depressed workplace. I wanted to leave soon after starting, but in my field (which is very small), it would have been career suicide to leave so quickly.

        So I decided to focus on what was within my power: to try to change the morale of my team. From the beginning, I referred to us as a team (which was a new concept in this organisation) and made sure to encourage and praise the work that was done well. It took a lot of energy and seemed to be a losing battle. However, in the past few months, I’ve noticed a significant turnaround. Not only in increased happiness and job satisfaction, but in performance. While we could absolutely get better, every member of the team is so far beyond where we were last year that I’m feeling quite satisfied. The fact that the rest of the workplace has remained at its same (or lower) level makes my team stand out even more.

        That said, however, I will definitely be asking about the management environment when I interview for my next job. Although I’ve learned/accomplished much more than I had anticipated in this environment, not being able to manage properly is far too stressful. I’m grateful for your blog which keeps me grounded in the reality of what managing is supposed to be like.

        Thanks again!

    2. Mike C.

      I love this assumption that just because the workplace is unionized that there is no way whatsoever to punish or fire underperforming employees. If nothing else, it takes two to sign a contract, and there is no union in the United States that can simply prevent an employee from being fired for breaking that contract.

      So if this manager/supervisor can’t fire anyone, you go up the chain. I can’t believe this is so difficult.

      For some strange reason, nations all over the world are somehow able to function in a competitive, free market society while requiring documented cause, personal improvement plans and notice before firing someone.

      Did you ever consider actually working with the union come negotiation time? The employees who make up the union have no interest in making the business uncompetitive, and hold the same bitterness towards those not pulling their weight that non-unionized employees hold.

      1. The gold digger

        there is no way whatsoever to punish or fire underperforming employees

        Mike, I am assuming you have not read the recent article in the NYTimes about the unionized employees working at homes for the disabled in New York who sexually and physically abused patients and were not fired after the union defended them? Yes, that is a contract issue (that the union has to defend a challenged employee), but what a horrible contract that management does not have the automatic power to fire an employee who has hit or raped a patient.

  15. Jennifer

    @Mike – In this case, it’s not an assumption about the unionized workplace: I am speaking of my workplace specifically. (I don’t live in the United States, btw.)

    I agree with you that, in an ideal environment, it would be possible to construct a documented case for firing someone (i.e., having the union represent the employee and working with management to improve performance), but this only works if (1) the union is willing to take on this challenge consistently and (2) management will manage.

    As I mentioned in my reply to AAM, the management in my workplace is very weak/inefficient: they actively avoid confrontation of any sort and seem unable to hold anyone accountable. It’s difficult to build a documented case when managers refuse to acknowledge that there’s a problem and will not discuss it with employees.

    At the same time, the union seems primarily focused on protecting the rights of long-term employees. And since you asked, the majority of the newer staff (including me) are active in the union. The executive now consists of about half long-term and half new employees;however, the elected bargaining committee is entirely comprised of long-term employees. The newer staff have been struggling for years to bring about changes both within the union and the workplace, but it feels as though we’re facing a losing battle (given the reticence of union staff to change and of management to manage). The turnover rate of new employees is staggering.

    I recognize that there are myriad problems here with both management and the union. I think AAM’s point is valid – regardless of whether one is in a unionized environment or in an environment where managers won’t manage: “inability to enforce consequences means inability to hold people accountable… means inability to manage.”

    1. Mike C.

      First off, thanks for your response, I appreciate the clarification. And good for you for being willing to be active with the union, too many simply see management or labor as “the other team” and refuse to work towards what should be a mutually beneficial goal.

      That being said, I want to smack your union leadership for being so incredibly shortsighted. There are many (including myself) that would kill to just be able to join a union, and to see that you have this and that it’s being squandered by those who should know better just kills me.

      AAM has some good points, I just interpreted your post as a general “ugh, unions are terrible” type post. It’s a sensitive issue right now in the states right now, and I do apologize if I was too rough.

      Best of luck while you remain at your current position.

  16. Anonymous

    Hi I’m the one who wrote the question that started this thread. I appreciate everyone’s input.

    I did want to clarify one thing regarding my statement that I inherited the team I manage. Sara Jo seemed to think that meant I pre-judged them but really I didn’t. I used “inherit” because the team was already in place, I didn’t interview, hire or train any of the individuals that are currently in place. I’d like to think I have given them ample opportunity to show me what they are like. I’ve been in this position for just under a year. I’ve slowly been trying to reinforce behavior that I think is acceptable and trying to explain when something isn’t up to the standards I feel they should be.

    I also want to clarify I only used the “proof reading, spell checking” as an example to show that I am not setting extremely impractical standards. There are many examples in addition to these but I didn’t want to bog down the letter with all the minor details.

    I appreciate all the feedback and I’m glad to see that most feel that I am correct in setting fair standards and then fully expecting people to strive to reach them. I am going to be clear about my expectations and will try to communicate effectively with everyone to give them feedback when they are meeting those expectations and when they are not.

  17. Leigh

    Don’t let lack of raises deter you from expecting better performance. Provide recognition and credit where it is due works better than money. Ask for involvement and ideas on the changes and let them lead the ideas. Give them a special project once in awhile that will give them a break from the daily grind. Use very specific measurements and reward the whole team when goals are met. Reward individuals personally. Rewards don’t have to be financial. Take them to lunch. If you can bake, bring them cupcakes to celebrate goals. Seek feedback from customers and share the accolades during a team meeting. Give them a copy of the email to keep. Send them an email copying upper management thanking them for their extra effort. My department has a trophy that you can give to someone or take for yourself if you think you have done something worth noting. We are all professionals but my boss still puts sticky notes saying Wow! Great Job! on documents.

    There are so many ways to acknowledge people in a work place, but the most important part is FOLLOW UP! Please don’t give them a goal and then 30 days later sit down to talk about it. If you give them new expectations, every interaction for the next two weeks needs to reinforce that new expectation. If they are succeeding, you can scale back. That does not mean micromanage. Allow them to do things their own way as long as they are meeting the customers needs in a professional and timely way (and of course is legal and ethical).

  18. Revanche

    Actually, be very prepared about pushback if they’re not on board. I went through this last year and it took seven months to deal with the fallout of my setting the higher bar. I lost and replaced 2/3s of my legacy hires who refused to perform to the higher level.

    It wasn’t entirely bad times, though, I managed to work with one of the legacies through all the issues and bring her to the point of promotion and set the other one on a definite path to the next level of promotion. AND that second one earned a bonus which is highly unusual in our organization.

    *Absolutely* make sure that your boss is in the loop and is on board as well. Mine supported me 100% but even he got uncomfortable every so often when the pressure from the staff to let them “go back to normal” (screw around on the internet all day, email videos to each other, take multiple phone breaks throughout the day) became too intense.

    Ultimately, I built an awesome team that works really well together and knows that I have high expectations and I reward them without compensation coming into the equation because I can’t hand out raises. I bring small treats, they’re complimented and credited publicly for their work, I look for ways to expand their skill sets according to their interests, get overtime to help them get caught up on work and ask for it as necessary but watch out to make sure they’re not overworked. I won’t go on, but there are a lot of ways to make their work lives pleasant and I try to find more to continue to motivate them.

    1. Anonymous

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I don’t feel like I have the support of my manager (who is the owner of the company). He wants “efficiency” but can’t define what he means by that.

      One of the first things I tried to do was make sure time/payroll was accurate because some people were obviously “playing the system” and others were working to cover for them and not getting compensated for it. Obviously the people who were taking advantage didn’t like it…went to the owner and I had to explain my “new way of tracking time”. I explained it wasn’t a “new way”, it was just paying the people for the time they actually were working..not just scheduled to be working. He felt I went “too far”….huh?!? He did remind me thought that the department should be run “efficiently”…huh?!?..can anyone say mixed messages?

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