Supervisory Leadership

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Wally Bock Answers Your
Supervisory Leadership Question

What's the best way to deal with underachieving and problem employees?

There's no magic stone for this. Good supervision is the only answer in both cases, but what's important is slightly different in each case. First, though, let's consider what should be the same.

  • Expectations should be clear and reasonable.
  • Feedback should be frequent and helpful.
  • There should be a clear line of demarcation between merely observing and documenting.

No underachiever is going to change his or her ways unless there's a reason. And the fact of today's work environment is that if they are performing up to minimum standards they're likely to be with you for a while. Here are some reasons folks don't perform up to what we believe is their potential.

They don't like the tasks we want them to do. Sometimes changing the job can help with this, sometimes not.

They don't know how to do the things we want. That's a training problem.

They don't have the resources to do the things we want. Get them the resources or change expectations.

They have the skills and resources but they lack confidence. This is a coaching issue. Increase their confidence by helping them achieve small, but increasingly significant wins.

Now to the problem folks. These are the ones who do as little as possible or nothing when possible. They may engage in disruptive behavior. They do not pitch in on anything.

These folks are usually a small percentage of the work force, but they suck up the supervisor's time and they have a powerful impact on others. The strategy here is to pay attention to them, call their attention to unacceptable behavior, and, if they choose not to change, build the file that will justify firing them.

Wally

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