be honest about employee problems

Do you have an employee whose performance you’re unhappy with? Tell them.

Do you have an employee who you strongly suspect isn’t going to work on in the long-term? Tell them.

All too often, managers avoid being candid with employees about concerns over performance or fit. They want to avoid a difficult conversation, or they don’t believe the person can fix the problem, or they’re hoping they can ignore it a little longer.

This is horribly unfair to the employee, who deserves the chance to know about the issues, and it’s unfair to your company, which has hired you to, in part, address employee problems head-on.

Yes, a conversation about performance problems isn’t pleasant. It sucks for anyone on the receiving end, and it sucks for the manager who has to deliver it. But it is far, far worse to be an employee whose boss doesn’t care enough to speak candidly with her about areas in which she needs to improve in order to do well.

Even if you’re convinced such a conversation would be fruitless and the employee can’t change, she deserves to know. She deserves to know because maybe you’re underestimating her, or maybe it would be useful for her to understand the ways in which she’s a bad fit for this work, or maybe she just deserves a chance to see the writing on the wall so she can start looking for other positions.

The worst thing you can do when you’re unhappy with an employee is stay quiet. Tell the person, and tell them now.

{ 6 comments… read them below }

  1. Wally Bock*

    When I teach this I refer to the Dinosaur Rule. It’s one of my Management Minims. Problems are like dinosaurs. They’re easy to deal with when they’re small, but if you let them get big, they eat you.

    The first thing we can do to make sure that we have managers who deal with employee issues is select people who are willing to talk to others about their performance and behavior. Since we don’t even look at that issue in the selection process in most places, it would be a good start.

    Then we need to train the managers we have that correcting behavior/performance issues starts with clear expectations. Then great supervisors touch base a lot to see if understanding is translated into execution. They make lots of small adjustments.

    As part of the training, we need to show managers that there is a way to talk to someone about performance or behavior that will increase the odds that things come out right and decrease the confrontational nature of the conversation.

    Finally we need everyone responsible for group performance to understand that it’s part of their job to talk to the people who work for them about behavior and performance. It is not optional.

  2. Anonymous*

    I have a question. Is it okay for a manager to ask his team to fill out a questionnaire regarding how they rate their manager(without disclosing their names ofcourse)?

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