Archive for August, 2012

Performance Symptoms vs. Performance Problems

Consider the following scenario:

A long-time employee arrives 30 minutes late for work three days in a row.  And, when questioned about this, he snaps “none of your business!”  You also notice that over the past month or so his work has really not been up to standards.  So do you have a performance problem?

Your immediate answer is probably “of course I have a performance problem!”  But what you really have is a series of performance symptoms:

  • Lateness
  • Rudeness
  • Poor quality work.

The underlying performance problem, the cause of these behaviors, could be any number of things, some of which you can control and some of which you cannot.  Consider that the employee might:

  • Have recently learned of the terminal illness of a loved one.
  • Be struggling with financial issues that are distracting from focus on work.
  • Feel (rightly or wrongly) that his work load has stretched him far beyond capacity.

You may be hesitant to engage him in a conversation about your observations.  But consider the cost and consequences of not doing so.  Just like a doctor who examines the patient with a fever (symptom) and decides on a diagnosis (problem) in order to prescribe the correct treatment, your task is to get to the underlying issue in order to develop a fair and appropriate solution.  Ideally this solution will maintain the dignity of the employee while meeting your needs for improved performance.  How to have that conversation will be the topic of a future blog post.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440

Retaining Critical Employees

A colleague of mine told the following story:

Her father had worked almost his entire career as an engineer in a small firm.  Eventually he “retired” but even in his 70’s, occasionally came back to fill in on critical projects.  One day he was out in the field waiting for the rest of the staff to assemble.  In order to be at his best for the long work day ahead, he decided to take a 15-minute “power nap” in his car.  About 10 minutes into the nap, the site supervisor arrived, saw that the engineer was sleeping, and started yelling and banging on the window.  When the engineer got out of the car he was subjected to an abusive tirade about how lazy he was.

If you were this engineer, what would you do the next time you were asked to help out?  He had voluntarily stepped in to fill a critical gap and ensure the success of the project.  Not only was he not appreciated, he was subjected to verbal abuse.  As you might guess, he refused to work on any projects after that.  The company lost a valuable resource because a supervisor lost his temper.

What do you do to retain your critical employees?  More importantly, can you think of any reasons why they might decide to leave?  Addressing these questions is critical to the continued success of any company.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440