Helen Giles, Managing Director
The other extreme is the over-indulgent manager who is so supportive to the employee that they let them get away with all sorts of excuses and avoidant behaviour to mask their lack of contribution to the team’s efforts. We find this especially pronounced in any sort of caring organisation, where some managers have a tendency to treat their staff like vulnerable service-users, and not as employees who bear the responsibility to ensure they are able to turn up to work and deliver on the terms of their contract.
The textbook approach to tackling poor job performance is to check in with the person what is going on and ascertain whether there might be any personal, domestic or health issues behind it.
It is true that we should always do this, and in some cases – a minority in our experience – the discussion will unearth a genuine state of difficulty. In most instances this is a state of affairs that has arisen relatively recently and may take some time to resolve. However, with a degree of flexibility in the short-term, it is to be expected that the employee makes arrangements to manage whatever is going on outside of work and attend reliably to focus on giving 100 per cent performance.
It is not acceptable for a manager to endlessly bend expectations around performance – and the requirement for the employee to turn up regularly and on time – for the person who veers from crisis to crisis in their lives. Most of us will have worked at some time with the colleague who has a divorce, then a relative dies, and then something bad happens with their housing or their children’s schooling, and so on, ad nauseam.
Sometimes these are true, sometimes it suits the employee to embellish the impact of non-work pressures – or even invent them - to cover up the fact that they are not very good at their job, or lack the inclination to apply themselves to it.
The manager must be clear about performance expectations – what needs to be delivered, to what standard, and by when? They have to give reasonable support and coaching for people to meet standards and show compassion and understanding - allowing temporary flexibility - when something goes wrong.
If things don’t improve within a fairly short time frame, then the employee needs to be reminded that it is their responsibility to manage their life outside of work. If they are unable to meet the requirements of their contract, they will either have to accept reduced hours (on reduced pay) if this can be accommodated, otherwise you will have to take them through the necessary improvement procedures. At the end of the day, this is in the best interests of the employee, as well as the rest of the team who have been secretly resenting the manager’s endless flexibility at their expense.