Workplace Wisdom

20 Feb 2018

What Are the Risks When You Hire “The Best We Could Get”?

Say you’re interviewing candidates for a big job you really need to fill — and fast. The absence of someone in this crucial spot is beginning to halt progress and the staff is starting to lose confidence. The perfect candidate needs a broad range of important competencies. You’ve already mined your network, and you’ve had a recruiter focused on the assignment for months. One candidate seems to have all the skills, even though in some of the interviews, they’ve come […]

07 Jul 2015

Should We Reassess the Annual Review?

If you can’t draw a direct line from performance appraisal to performance improvement, then, seriously, what’s the point? Yet in many organizations, the definitions, criteria, and explanations for the annual review aren’t specifically pertinent to many jobs — and even if they’re clear, they don’t necessarily improve performance. Why spend so much time figuring out what’s wrong with employees? Why not focus on improving performance, engagement, and retention? Most companies do appraisals so sloppily that they don’t provide the legal […]

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, […]

21 Apr 2015

Why Interviews Alone Won’t Ensure Good Fit

Clients and other business people often ask me for interview questions that will reveal which candidates are most likely to succeed in a particular job. But there’s no standard set of questions, because it’s all about the fit. And only someone inside the organization can know what that needs to be. For instance, will this be a standardized job where the work norms are already well established, or one where the employee has the license and standing to shape the […]

18 Nov 2014

How to Emphasize Praise for Feedback Success

Last week’s post, This Is the Truth About Workplace Feedback, discussed the significance of having a generally positive relationship with an employee before asking the employee to take in and apply critical feedback. A positive relationship isn’t necessary because it’s nicer. And it’s not because everyone should get a trophy. It’s just practical: All employees are human, and all humans make mistakes. And the vast majority of humans have trouble taking in criticism. In fact, according to communication experts, if you […]

09 Sep 2014

3 Reasons and 3 Ways to Help Someone Out … of Your Organization

How can you tell when an employment relationship has run its course? And what if you’ve figured it out, but the employee hasn’t? Often, the problem is a function of fit: The organization has evolved in some way or the job itself has changed, but the employee has not adapted. Or maybe the employee wasn’t really right for the job from the beginning, but you tried to make it work anyway. Start from the Top Sometimes managers are so concerned […]

17 Sep 2013

Want Success in Employee Development? Watch a Baby

Why are we so tolerant of certain kinds of unsuccessful behaviors in children, but not in adults? When a child stumbles and falls while learning to walk, no one says, “Don’t fall down, you bad baby!” Of course the baby falls down, before developing the capability, the knowledge, the skill, and the strength to walk. Everyone encourages the baby: “You’re okay! Get up! Try again! You can do it! Hold my hand!” And the baby, with much practice and some […]

21 May 2013

Watch Out for the Emptiness of Empowerment

Long, long ago, maybe back in the ’80s, “empowerment” was the hot new thing in workplaces. The word itself had a regenerative, creative, motivating sound. It held the possibility that, instead of laboring under bureaucratic Theory X command-and-control management structures (with an emphasis on control), employees could take responsibility for exercising business judgment in their own jobs. On the Frontlines The idea was that employees, particularly frontline service employees, were capable of making good decisions as part of their everyday […]

15 Jan 2013

Do You Need to Work with a Hard-Driving Leader Who Overreacts?

Over the last few years I’ve worked with a number of senior executives who are hardworking and wonderfully competent in their areas of expertise, but are so highly reactive that they create extra burdens for themselves and their organizations. Overreactors typically have a great and visible sense of urgency: Whatever is a problem for them is a problem RIGHT NOW; whatever is important to them must be addressed RIGHT NOW; and whatever they’re curious about should have been explored yesterday. […]

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 […]


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