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Help workers ask for what they need

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Every manager's dealt with demanding and unreasonable employees. But every manager's also dealt with workers whose demands are reasonable — but who are afraid to ask the boss (that's you) for what they need. Here are some ways you can help:

-Short-term stresses. You might be a lot more willing to be flexible — to give workers time off, or a different schedule, or different job assignments — than your employees think you are.

When you see, or hear about, short-term stresses in your team members' lives that are impacting their job performance, feel free to make the first move: "We can explore flexing your schedule, or swapping some of these projects with Jane, until this situation's resolved. How do you think we can best meet your needs and the team's needs?" If that's not an obvious enough invitation, make clear — gently — that you've noticed performance issues that you'd rather not have to address unilaterally.

-Long-term problems. If workers have off- the- job issues that aren't likely to go away, or if they're clearly not thriving with their current duties, you don't have to wait for them to conclude the status quo isn't working. Start by laying out the performance problem that needs to be resolved.

If you have reason to doubt that the worker can succeed, right now, in the current job, say so. Then lay out the options — a directed plan of performance improvement, or a different job within the team or the enterprise, or a mutually agreeable parting. By offering a message that's broader than "Shape up or ship out," you have a good chance of uncovering the roots of performance problems — issues employees would never broach on their own initiative.

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