Why Should I Manage My Employee’s Performance?
There are lots of performance management conversations that I haven’t had over the years; conversations that I should have had. And I suspect I’m not the only one. Why didn’t you have them? Why didn’t I? Hmmm – fear.
What was I afraid of? I was afraid that I would do it “wrong”. I was afraid that I was mistaken about the issue. I was afraid the person would seize the opportunity to give me feedback that wasn’t flattering. I would lose face. I would be embarrassed. I would cause irreparable damage to my relationship with the other person – and EVERYONE would know what horrible thing I had done…otherwise known as my ego.
Who would ever want to push themselves out of their comfort zone – live with those uncomfortable, unsafe feelings – only to have huge regrets? Not me. Poking my eye out with a hot poker would hurt less; a root canal would scare me less.
And then I recognized slowly but surely that I was not walking my talk. If I truly cared about the other person, if I truly wanted the best for them, if I really did want them to grow and be happy, productive and successful, I had to dig deep and find the courage, get incredibly well prepared and speak up. Giving another person feedback is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give them.
One of the images I keep close to me when I think of having performance conversations is again the poppy seed salad dressing. I love salads – all kinds. Have you ever enjoyed your salad at lunch and then perhaps gone to the washroom many hours later only to discover that you have a poppy seed on your front tooth? “Why didn’t anyone tell me?” I had had conversations with my colleagues, my friends, my boss and no one told me. It was so obvious!
Perhaps they didn’t tell me because they were too uncomfortable saying the words. Perhaps they thought I would be embarrassed and uncomfortable with the news. Perhaps….they just didn’t care enough about me to speak up. I don’t want to be that person.
Think about that poppy seed on my tooth. I didn’t want it there. I didn’t know it was there. But it was there and that wasn’t good. We won’t go into the reason why that wasn’t good. I’m going to presume you just agree with me on this one.
What recent performance issue comes to your mind? Recently I met with a business owner who had an employee who was late coming to work on a regular basis. This had bothered the business owner from the very beginning but she chose to ignore it – for all of the reasons I listed above – and avoid, deny, ignore until it disappears. She shared her frustration about this employee’s tardiness. With a little coaching, she concluded that she would have to have the performance conversation.
To me having the conversation about tardiness is very like having the conversation about the poppy seed. Do you care enough about the employee, her co-workers, your customers, yourself, to speak up? Do you have a responsibility to the employee, to her co-workers, to your customers to speak up? As a leader (supervisor) in the organization, you certainly do.
When I’m angry about someone’s behaviour, I always do my best to try to calm down before I speak up. If I can’t calm down, then I try to postpone the conversation. It doesn’t always happen but it’s the way I prefer to do things. It’s when I’m calm that I listen the best. My first objective is to set the stage for the conversation, tell the employee that I have a concern about something I’ve seen and I want to talk to them about it. I then describe what I have seen/witnessed without judgement. I ask for their explanation and I wait quietly.
I’ve had these conversations about being late for work with a number of employees over the years. I remember the time that I discovered that the employee is a bit disillusioned – “Traffic is bad on the Bedford Highway.” She felt that there was nothing she could do about that!
Another time I discovered that the employee going through a hard time at home. He really was trying to get to work on time, but he had his hands full. Another employee confessed that they were staying up late watching series on TV and then sleeping though their alarm clock. Lots of reasons – not one person was intentionally coming to work late just to annoy their boss or co-workers or customers. Sort of like my poppy seed in my front tooth – it was not done intentionally.
Please don’t hesitate the next opportunity you have to have a performance conversation. You will want to be incredibly well prepared. You may feel better writing out what you want to say. Saying it out loud or actually practicing the conversation with a colleague or friend is a good idea. You will get better and more confident the more you do it. And you will begin to take pride in yourself when you know you are indeed walking your talk!