Question: Whenever I give assignments or information to one of my employees, she writes it all down in a planning system in her huge binder. The problem is that she doesn't do much with the information that she enters. She misses deadlines and lets other work fall through the cracks, but she always reminds others about their work. How should I deal with her?

Answer: Your employee apparently regards planning as a writing exercise as opposed to a functional process to help organize her work, track her progress, and meet the objectives. It also sounds like she is more interested in using her notes to exert control over others.

Rather than focusing on this employee's so-called planning system, you should focus on her performance per se. Whether she uses a binder or the most high-tech planner in the world, the reality is that she is not effectively carrying out her job responsibilities. You should meet with her to discuss her performance shortfalls, and then discuss some specific strategies to help her get back on track.

If her first step is to pull out the big binder and start writing down your comments, you should review whatever she is writing and fine-tune it as needed in order establish a real action plan with specific goals, dates, deadlines, and priorities. It is time for her to stop thinking of her planning system as a diary or tickler for her fellow employees, and start using it to truly organize her work and meet the established performance expectations. If her work continues to miss the mark, she should understand that a different kind of writing may come into play. It's called a write-up.

Question: I have an employee who marks every email he sends with a "high importance" icon. At first, I rushed to open his email, but it did not take me long to determine that he is using this tactic to get people to read what he writes. I suggested that he reserve this icon for communications that are really important, and he said that he only uses it for such email. That's simply untrue. Is there a way to get him to use this icon more discretely?

Answer: You told this employee that you would like him to refrain from classifying all of his email as "high importance," and that should have been the end of this matter.

His refusal could be due to any number of factors. For example, perhaps he truly believes that everything he says is of major importance. Unfortunately, this type of thinking is rather delusional. Maybe he is so self-centered that he cannot stand the thought of having you read someone else's email ahead of his. Or, he could be lazy and simply assume that since he cannot write a compelling subject line, he'll take the easy way out and tack this label onto his email.