When managers are not happy with employee performance, they often provide improvement feedback, advising the employee what they want to see.
Sometimes it’s general:
- I want to see an improvement in your communication
- You need to improve your relationships with the finance department.
- I’d like to see more employee engagement.
If they don’t see employee improvement, it’s not surprising to me. I can’t tell from those statements what the real concern is.
- I want to concise reports that are no longer than one page.
- The finance department should see you and your team as resources.
- Your employees should see an connection between their goals and the goals of our entire division.
But it still leaves the person guessing about how to deliver the goods. If someone isn’t giving you the desired results, the first thing an effective manager does is look in the mirror and ask themselves the following questions:
- Am I clear in my own mind of what his/her job is? Is there a question about the definition of responsibility?
- Have I made clear to the employee what I expect of him/her? Could there be a problem of communication?
- Have I gained his/her acceptance of what I have defined as his/her responsibility? Could this be a problem ?
- Have I fed him/her work according to his/her level of skill? Is this a training issue?
- Have I given him/her too much work to do? Too little? How would I describe the work distribution?
- Have I been realistic as to the performance I expect? Have I been clear about work standards?
- Am I checking up on him/her too much? Could this be an issue of control?
- Am I treating him/her any different than the others? Am I leaning on him/her more without realizing it? Favoring others?
- Is s/he turned off? Do I know why?
- Have I been too hard on him/her? Too much criticism? Not enough “pats on the back” when s/he did a good job? Is it a question of reward and punishment?
- Has s/he had personal problems I haven’t been aware of? Have I been sensitive to his/her situation?
- Does it have anything to do with his/her relationship to the other workers? Is there an interpersonal concern?
- Did I give him/her more responsibility than s/he could handle? Not enough? Is delegation the issue?
- Am I paying him/her as much as the others for the same amount of work? Is there a perception of inequity?
- Have I seen to it that s/he knows enough to do what I expect of him/her? Is training the problem?
- Does s/he belong in this kind of work? Is it an appropriate selection?
- Is s/he just plain rebellious? Is it a disciplinary problem?
- Does s/he have problems I don’t know about? Is this a counseling concern?
What a manager does next depends on the answers. But one thing I see a great deal of is the inability/unwillingness to help the employee figure out HOW.
- What exactly do I need to do to improve my communication?
- What specific actions do I need to take to improve my relationship with the finance department?
- What actions are required on my part to engage employees successfully?
It may be that no employee will ask the question (or ask it in that way). No one wants the boss to think thy don’t know what apparently should be obvious. But if the boss isn’t seeing what they want – don’t assume they know HOW to do it.
I know that it would make a manager’s life so much easier if employees just knew HOW. But without evidence that they have performed this skills before, it’s more of a hope than an accurate assumption.
So ask them if they know how – and then listen as they walk you thought the strategy, and define the skills required. They may know WHAT to do, but not HOW to do it.
That’s where some good managing comes in.