On the Job With Ken Lloyd: Boss Presses for Write-up, but It May Be Overkill
Q: One of my employees made a fairly costly mistake, and her overall performance has been slipping recently. After the most recent incident, I met with her and gave her a strong verbal warning. When I discussed the situation with my manager, he told me to write up her. I do not believe that her performance is at the point where she needs this level of discipline, but he disagrees. What should I do?
A: Your manager has given you a directive, and unless he changes his mind, you are under an obligation to carry it out. In fact, the irony is that if you refuse to write-up your employee, your manager could write you up.
At this moment, it is clear that your manager does not agree with the approach you are taking with this employee. Although you told your manager that you believe there is no real need for a write-up, that is not enough information to convince him. If you truly believe that a verbal warning is more than sufficient, you should meet with your manager again and provide him with more facts, figures, and specific performance data to unequivocally demonstrate you have already taken appropriate corrective action. And further, since you have already given your employee a verbal warning, a write-up at this point can feel like double jeopardy.
If your manager still believes that a write-up is necessary, then that is what you should do. Besides, the combination of this employee's performance slippage plus her costly mistake seems to indicate that something beyond a verbal warning is warranted. Also, since performance-related feedback has its greatest impact when attached as closely as possible to the problematic behavior in question, time is truly of the essence in this matter.
Q: I report to an owner of this company, and he sees himself as a visionary. The result is that he tosses nonsensical projects at me and several other managers. A small number of his ideas were fairly successful, but most were not. These assignments prevent us from getting our other work done. Do you have any suggestions?
A: When you report to a "visionary," regardless of whether the title is self-acclaimed or the result of acclamations of others, one of the more common outcomes is that you are likely to be given a broad range of projects, some of which may seemingly border on the absurd. In fact, some may actually be absurd.
However, the first point to emphasize is that this individual is an owner.
That fact alone provides him with a trump card when it comes to creating and assigning projects. Secondly, as your manager, he is literally in a position to assign such work to you. Also, your manager has had some success as a visionary, and this has undoubtedly inspired him to keep generating new ideas. Perhaps one of his creative accomplishments started as an arguably absurd assignment.
As a result, keep an open mind regarding the work that he assigns to you.
If given the opportunity, try to discuss the new ideas with him before he tosses them your way. When employees are informed about these types of assignments and even given the opportunity to voice their input, the resistance often declines and the work quality increases. And if the issue is a matter of being overloaded to the point that some of your other key assignments are falling behind, you should discuss and clarify work priorities with this individual.
Q: A fellow employee and his manager asked me to handle a project that draws more on my expertise than theirs. After completing everything that needed to be done, I sent it to the manager, since this was the agreed-upon procedure. I told my fellow employee that I sent the finished work to his manager. However, this fellow employee then emailed his manager to ask him if he received the work from me. The only reason I found out is that his manager included me on the response. What do you make of this?
A: The real question is what do you want to make of this? You can make it a major issue, or you can make nice. The best way to determine a course of action is to put this individual's actions into a context. Is this type of untrusting behavior typical of him, or is it more of an aberration?
If this is his standard modus operandi, you should send him an email indicating that you indeed sent the work in question to your manager. Or, provided that you do not use smug or condescending language, you could even forward the email that you originally sent to your manager, including the completed work that was attached to it. More than likely, this will put an end to this matter, while also helping this individual understand that when you say you have taken a given action, you have indeed done so.
At the same time, if this type of behavior is totally atypical for this individual, there really is no need to do anything with it at all. Perhaps he simply forgot what you had said to him. If you start to see more questionable behaviors down the road, then it is time for more than an emailed response.
Ken Lloyd, Ph.D., is an Encino-based management consultant, coach and author who specializes in organizational behavior. His newest book is "Performance Appraisals and Phrases for Dummies." See the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgW7hMqPPMU , and write to him at email@example.com .