Fear! It is what constrains us the most. And it is definitely what prevents supervisors, managers and leaders from fulfilling their responsibility to counsel (take corrective action) against employees who are underperforming or violating workplace rules.
What do I say? How do I prepare? When should I do this? Who should be present? How do I get rid of this knot in my stomach? Maybe I’ll just avoid it and hope it gets better. Sound familiar?
Counseling is corrective action; formerly known as disciplinary action. If you haven’t already, PLEASE get rid of disciplinary action in your workplace. It makes the supervisor, manager or company sound like a parent. If you want to create a professional environment that employs adults, then treat your employees like adults. Coach and counseling them to “correct” their behavior, instead of punishing them like a child.
With corrective action you are going on record, in a verbal or written format, to make an employee aware of what must be improved to remain in good standing; to remain employed. Why must you go through this agony? Three reasons why:
The employee wants you to. Employees want their leaders, to lead, to coach. Dedicated and motivated employees (the ones you should have hired) want your feedback, even when it is something that might be hard to hear. It is easy for an employee to go through the motions so many times they lose their way. Maybe the didn’t even realize that their tone of voice had deteriorated when talking to customers or other employees. You won’t know how to diagnose and fix the problem without having the conversation. Do I still have to go on record and write down that verbal counseling took place? YES! Why? Because it might happen again and then what will you do? What will you refer to?
It’s your responsibility to protect the company. When you fail to take some form of action (in a timely manner) to combat instances of policy violations or poor job performance you are unnecessarily exposing the company and co-workers to risk. What risk? Lower productivity, lost sales, decreased revenue. How? What do the other above average employees think when they see a co-worker being allowed to break rules or slack off without consequence? What happens when you are at your wits end and want to fire the employee? Your ability to defend your actions through an unemployment claim (or worse) rests in your corrective action documentation trail; those papers that the employee hopefully signed, acknowledging they were told what they were doing wrong and that it must be fixed. Don’t let your fear bring morale down or hinder your company’s ability to defend itself.
For your own credibility. Maybe you always wanted to be a manager. Or maybe you got lucky and were given a chance to manage because your productivity was so high. Regardless, no one wants to be seen as a bad manager. Some may joke or make light of it. But is that a good strategy? Especially when years of research tell us that the most talented employees leave because they hate their bosses, not because they don’t like their job. If turnover is costly, and all your best sources of creativity and initiative leave, what will become of the company and of your future? If you want to be credible as a manager, and as a leader, then face your fears of hard conversations head on. Managers that can have the hard conversations, in a manner that coaches employees to success, well, they will be running the department with all the talent. What happens next? How does job satisfaction, a thriving career and promotions sound?
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