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Light a Fire Under Slow-to-Discipline Supervisors

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in HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,People Management,Performance Reviews

When it comes to disciplining problem employees, managers often find every excuse to procrastinate.

Sometimes the delay is caused by outside forces, including that the employee works for more than one manager. But it often comes down to the manager’s lack of assertiveness. Over time, problem employees develop effective strategies for staying one step ahead of discipline.

But as an outsider from HR, you have an advantage because the worker doesn’t know how to “manage” you. Under such conditions, you can provide the kind of focused intervention that gets results.

One likely problem: Supervisors might not want to let go of the problem. They’re afraid of being seen as ineffective. It is up to you to put those fears to rest. To get the supervisor to welcome your participation and inject yourself into the situation tactfully, follow these tips:

  1. Focus on the team. Emphasize that you and the manager will cooperate to solve the problem. You aren’t taking the problem away, just suggesting a new strategy.
  2. Stress the productivity advantages of HR becoming involved in the problem. Doing so sends a strong message to the problem employee that further steps will be taken if he or she doesn’t improve.
  3. Emphasize the structural advantages. As an outsider, you might extract information from problem workers that they haven’t mentioned to the supervisor, such as conflicts with co-workers or with the supervisor himself.
  4. Highlight your range of options. You might be able to transfer the employee to another part of the company, offer training or apply other remedies. As someone from HR, you may have a bigger arsenal of possible solutions than the supervisor enjoys.

Above all, stress that you’re helping to solve a problem, not removing part of the manager’s job. Most managers will respond to that approach. As you prove your ability to help managers solve chronic performance problems, your value to the organization can only soar.  

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