Workplace Wisdom

13 Sep 2016

The Painful Responsibility of Staff Failure

I just got a call from a senior leader: A community outreach staffer was causing his management team some consternation. When he was hired 18 months ago, he’d approached every job with zest, volunteered for extra responsibilities, and was considered a standout contributor. But he no longer seemed as engaged, committed, or happy. Unfortunately, he was behaving as if he were being compensated purely for task accomplishment rather than for creating a consistent and forward-looking community presence. Although one of […]

02 Jun 2015

Three Ways to Deal with Employee Downtime

Sometimes a small question is actually about a bigger issue. This was the case when a faithful reader’s recent question got me thinking in two different directions: What could she do about an employee who goes on Facebook during the workday? My reader is a senior executive in a business that’s small enough for her to notice such “bad behavior” herself. I asked her if she ever went on Facebook when she was having lunch, and, learning that she did, […]

28 Oct 2014

When Leaders Avoid Conflict, They Hurt Their Teams

In last week’s post, an exec who didn’t wish to appear picky or small-minded missed the chance to address difficult and inappropriate situations created by her subordinate Xerxes when they were still small and potentially containable. Her hesitation meant that Xerxes never got the necessary corrective action plans. When he eventually had to be moved out of the organization, it was a shock to the rest of the organization. The Exec Who Hesitates Is Lost It can be awful to […]

15 Jul 2014

How to Cope When Difficult Colleagues Won’t Cooperate

It’s frustrating to try to get through your own work or to help your team make progress when you can’t get your colleagues to cooperate. Last week’s post covered some of the reasons that you might be hesitant to address this lack of support directly. Whether you prefer to avoid conflict and confrontation or you’re worried about being perceived negatively by peers or management, here are three ways to reassure yourself that you’re doing the right thing: Make the commitment […]

08 Jul 2014

How to Confront Your Fears with Difficult Colleagues

Some midlevel and senior executives are perfectly comfortable holding their staff members accountable for their responsibilities, but they get flummoxed when a peer is unenthusiastic, uncooperative, or downright obstructionist. These execs may not perceive it as their job to correct or manage a colleague. They wonder, in disbelief, “Isn’t everyone supposed to know how to behave both responsibly and collegially?” But that stance is unrealistic. The higher in the organization you go, the more likely it is that you’ll need […]

09 Oct 2012

How a Lack of Feedback Can Undermine Job Security

A seasoned executive was venting to me about her dissatisfaction with the work of a longtime employee. Over time, the employee seems to have succumbed to a combination of habitual carelessness and general lack of focus that may be exacerbated by personal difficulties. The result is an increasing number of errors and frequent episodes in which tasks are left completely undone. The employee is dedicated, means well, and has been with the organization for a long time. The exec hasn’t […]

19 Sep 2012

3 Stories: “Just Get It Done” Damages Performance

It’s not enough to announce to your staff, “Just get it done!” Because either they will or they won’t. If a manager communicates performance feedback without a real understanding of how the job gets done in the real world, then it’s unlikely that the job will get done. And when the manager wonders why not, the staff will honestly say that they either weren’t told or didn’t understand what was wanted. If the staff does understand what’s being asked of […]

11 Sep 2012

Do You Struggle with an Employee Who Can, But Won’t?

What if you’ve got a functionally competent employee whose performance is just not up to snuff? Perhaps most areas of her work are fine, and a few are outstanding, one or two crucial aspects are definitely insufficient. Gentle requests haven’t helped, nor has “sending signals;” not even peer pressure has made a dent. In fact, the employee seems downright resistant to doing certain things the way you’ve specified them, and you suspect that it’s not because she can’t, it’s because […]


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