I’m 27, this is the longest I’ve been with a company, and also the first time any of my employers has ever dedicated time, responsibility and trust in me despite my lack of experience... and it paid off for both of us. I was promoted to manager last year after a little under 3 yrs with the small business (non retail customer service), and admittedly I’m an absolute GREEN HORN in management. But my longest running challenge as a manager is this one direct in our very small staff—

There is a young woman (only a few years younger than me) who got hired a few months after I did, she was definitely hired as a favor. There’s a somewhat social relationship between my boss and her parents, and if it didn’t exist she definitely would have been fired by now. She’s a good natured person, but she’s a disaster of a person who can’t seem to ever maintain her performance longer than a month, has clearly never stood up solely on her own two feet, and after 3 1/2 years she is still consistently making excuses and rookie mistakes.

To ice the cake: there is this un documented understanding from her parents to my boss, and then to me, that she has medical issues we have to take into account. (We have absolutely no paperwork regarding this... it gives me nightmares.)

I understand my boss is in a awkward spot with this direct, I really do, but now I’ve inherited responsibility for her performance. Early on in the business this direct could make casual “requests” for considerations and accommodations for her (again, UNDOCUMENTED) medical condition, and my boss would comply. She is clearly used to being able to make excuses for herself and have them accepted. 

I do not believe we keep should keep a staff member who consistently does not perform, could be a liability someday, and would take a lot of time and energy to coach up to even minimal performance standards. We are at a pivotal point when both my boss and myself need to be focusing our energy elsewhere in the company. I will admit that she has improved during her time here, and I wouldn’t be where I am now if my boss hadn’t been lenient and considerate of me and my own shortcomings from time to time over the past 3 yrs... but it took those same 3 yrs and lots of hand holding and making special exceptions for this direct just to get good at the most basic manual labor. What will it cost us in time and energy to get her to a consistently capable level of performance?

I have no idea how to manage this direct, both her social connections and her lack of capability haunt my interactions with her. It could be a great learning experience for all... but I dont even know where to start.


Great Manager Institute's picture

Sometimes you have to take a tough call. We know it's difficult but you could possibly check whether there's any other team where she would be a better fit. Possibly a team where the workload is lower. Recommend her there.

That would be a win-win situation for both. 

We usually help managers navigate such challenges. Do check our website and let us know if we could help you on your journey to be a Great People Manager.

V Ann's picture

There are no other teams, that’s how small a team we are currently. We run the entire facility on a staff of 5 people. There are no lower work capacity departments either.  

Ive started scheduling 1n1s with my directs once a month, so that they know I will regularly expect to hear what’s going on with their responsibility and productivity in the facility. This girl still hasn’t sucessfuly had a 1n1 with me, she has delayed giving me information important to scheduling the meeting for an entire week.

I have to give her a write-up because of her poor performance at this point, and Im not sure if she will take that as a sign to try harder or if she will fall apart and give me excuses. 

tc_overton's picture

I lead a small team of 7 employees (soon to be 6) in a larger global company. Our office has about 13-15 people total. I have faced a similar situation with a low performer. While they didn't have a social connection to the boss, they did regular complain to HR using their race. As of two days from now this person will be another company's problem.

I did regular weekly 1n1s with this person off and on over the last two years (I am not exactly perfect at maintaining the 1n1s). Through the 1n1s, I learned about this person and how to give feedback that wasn't deflected by defensiveness. I also started posting a weekly metric. This showed who was performing and at what level. (The great thing about metrics, is that they are empirical data showing either they met the standard or didn't.) The 1n1s, feedback, and posted metric caused this employee to decide to move on when they figured out they were going to be held to a standard.

I genuinely hoped for this person's performance to improve, as I am sure you do for your direct. If they are not willing to make the adjustments then there is nothing you can do to force them. 

You may want to listen to the "Dani's Story" cast.

Great Manager Institute's picture

We completely understand the situation you are in. Another suggestion is to have 'stand up' meetings every week. Here, every team member openly thanks each other for good work and awards a star to them. The individual with the highest stars at the end of the month wins an award (say, Tech genius award).

This would be like a positive reinforcement for her to perform. We believe she would feel motivated when she sees other team members winning it! Let us know if this works!

There are more Manager Mantras on our Twitter page, please check if any of these would help. 

Would wait for your update :)

Great Manager Institute's picture

Surely the  'Stand up meetings technique'  would take 4-5 months to show visible results in her case, but it would definitely work. Good luck!