Unacceptable work? How to toss it back
From time to time, all managers deal with subpar performance or shoddy work. And sometimes it’s tempting just to do it yourself. Don’t. Unacceptable work makes life hard for supervisors, but accepting it makes life harder. Supervisors who avoid a confrontation over quality—often by doing the work themselves—build up resentment and anger toward workers. And employees who aren’t encouraged to improve will lose interest in trying. Here’s how to return bad work.
- Control your reaction. Make sure you focus on the deficiencies of the work, not the individual. Identify what’s missing before you approach the worker.
- Discuss changes positively. Start by thanking the employee for his effort and mention something good about it—for example, that it was delivered on time. Then get to the point without apologizing. Outline the general areas that need improvement and explain why the changes are needed. As you get into specifics, check frequently for the employee’s understanding.
- Come to an agreement. Give the employee an opportunity to absorb your views—and to defend his work. Listen carefully to his justifications. If you find that he didn’t understand your original instructions, determine how to avoid such communication breakdowns in the future. Once you’ve agreed what’s needed, discuss how it will be accomplished. Ask the employee for some suggestions. Specify what will constitute successful completion and express your confidence in his ability.
- Return and learn. After you’ve handed back the unacceptable work, take time to consider whether there were any steps you could have taken to help the employee succeed the first time around. Did you set sufficiently clear standards? Was there enough time spent monitoring progress? Did you provide specific and timely feedback?