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Discipline with an eye on change

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Are you unhappy with an employee’s sloppy performance? The problem probably won’t take care of itself, so you need to raise your concerns.

Many managers dislike disciplining poor performers. Most of us want to be liked by the people with whom we spend eight or more hours each workday. Saying, “You’re not doing the job,” hardly endears us to them.

To prepare for a productive discussion, identify why the employee should engage in behavioral change. Seeing the world from that person’s perspective, ask yourself, “What’s to gain by changing the way I do things now?”

“To get people to decide to change, you have to get them to recognize the consequences of their current behavior and propose reasons for them to do things differently,” says Jeff Thull, president of Prime Resource Group, a consulting firm in Minneapolis. “Ideally, those consequences won’t be acceptable to them and they’ll rethink their approach.”

For example, tell an assistant who’s prone to deleting key e-mails, “The consequences of us not acting on e-mail requests is that we lose sales and drive away customers. That’s going to jeopardize our ability to hit our revenue targets and keep staffing at current levels. By responding to important e-mails promptly, you can help yourself and the rest of us maintain and grow our business.”

Describing a performance problem in neutral terms and specifying what can happen if no changes are made places the onus on the employee to respond. Help people draw the right conclusion, and they’re more apt to shape up.


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