BLUF: Report performing great on the whole, but not doing the little things and not a team player.  What do I do with him/her?

I have a report who’s excellent in the macro sense – Clients love him and he’s hitting the individual sales and utilization goals I set out for him.  As an individual he’s pretty darn good. 

However, he drives me nuts in the micro sense.  He’s constantly behind on administrative tasks andwhen he works as part of a team delivering for clients that aren’t his he consistently misses deadlines.    He ignores our established practices and processes and is frequently pushes buttons of my peers across the organization.

I’ve provided him feedback using the model, but he has yet to really change his behavior.  I’m not going to get rid of him because he’s hitting it as an individual – and I think he knows that.  I am also aware that at least one of his clients consistently offers him a job – so he’s got a backstop if starts to feel threatened (we typically don't enforce the no-hire cluases in our contracts.).  Therefore, not sure how effective a SOTB would be.

I've just been compensating around his behavior, but I need to do something for my own sanity. 



mattpalmer's picture

The situation you're in is the one I probably fear most as a manager.  Someone's good, too good to rationally fire (although there might be a caveat there, which I'll address), but some aspect of their performance can't be left unaddressed.  Thankfully, I'm yet to be in this situation, so I don't have an answer from experience, but I'll give you the thoughts I've had -- I'm not one to let risks go unanalysed.

The job of the manager is to get results and retain people.  As it stands, you appear to be getting both, but you'd like more results.  The ways you've thought of so far will possibly sacrifice retention in the attempt to achieve results, so we're not going to do that.

The nice part of the situation you're in is that there *is* an area of your direct's job that they produce results -- individual sales and "utilisation goals". The straightforward answer there, then, is to give them more of that, and less of the stuff they don't do well at.  What admin tasks can you eradicate or get someone else to do?  Perhaps you can hire an admin assistant to do that stuff for the whole team, and make everyone more effective?  If he's ignoring established processes, why is that?  Perhaps the problem is that what this direct does *is* more effective (at least for him), and you need to reconsider the utility of your procedures.  If the process really *is* crucial, perhaps the direct doesn't realise why, and so they just need some education.

We've got a sales guy here who pretty much refuses to do all of the paperwork surrounding a sale, because it isn't selling, and selling is what he does.  Drives the sales manager and CEO nuts.  I'm convinced some of what he skips isn't important, but other parts are, but if he doesn't know they're actually important, where's the motivation?

I'd also look at your relationship with your direct, to see if that can be improved.  The effectiveness of your feedback might be too dependent on role power, and not enough on relationship power.  If you improve your relationship, you might find that your feedback becomes more effective.

Finally, there is *one* aspect of your direct's behaviour that is potentially termination-worthy: "frequently push[ing] buttons of my peers across the organization".  I subscribe to the MT view that there's only two reasons to fire someone: lack of results, or tearing down the team.  Pushing other peoples' buttons counts as tearing down the team, in my book.  If you piss other people off to the point their results suffer... sorry dude, not cool. If you've already tried addressing it with feedback and it hasn't worked, I'd say it's important enough to escalate to We Need To Have A Talk.

As an aside, I think you misunderstand what the (Feedback) SOTB is.  I had the same misunderstanding, because I think the term is misleading. Even though the way the analogy is described in the cast on "Feedback and the Shot Across the Bow" ( matches what you and I intuitively think as being a SOTB, you don't actually do anything different to deliver an MT-style SOTB during feedback.  Paraphrasing from the shownotes, when you deliver feedback, you're *already* giving people a shot across the bows.  Even if the person doesn't acknowledge the feedback, the shot has been fired.  To confuse things a bit more, a SOTB review *is* a more forceful version of a standard review, but that's used "when you're considering termination", and that doesn't appear to be the case here (yet).

duplicate_account_MarkAus's picture

I wrote a longer answer to this but I just deleted it when I realised the heart of your problem is in your last two paragraphs.   The short answer is: You've lost your role power in a circumstance where you need it.  So get it back.

You need to take the attitude that your direct may be good but he is not unique.   Take the position that everyone is replaceable.  Both of these are always true.

If your direct thinks he can do whatever he likes because there are no consequences to his actions then he, by definition sees you are ineffectual.

If he's not delivering results your company needs, start holding him accountable and attach consequences.  For example:  No paperwork for the sale by the due date?  No commission.    Misses deadlines?  Lots of feedback and each instance documented for his end of year review.

Don't ever compensate for him - that's a bad message for him and a bad message to send the team.  If things fall over because of his behaviour, make him understand in advance that he's responsible and that there will be consequences.   Then deliver the consequences.

Let him know the standard.  Hold him to the standard.  Deliver consequenences for failing to meet the standard. 

Of course, I make this recommendation assuming that you're doing one on ones and have already got a relationship.   You need the relationship too. 

Good luck.



naraa's picture
Training Badge

 He is not driving you crazy.  You are getting crazy all on your own.  Quoting Mark Horstmann: "how you feel is your fault"

"He just poke you with An. Umbrella, you got mad all by yourself."

Stop letting his behaviour affect you and you will see how things will improve.

GlennR's picture

Which are making more of an impact? His positives (sales, client relations) or his negatives (impact on team/co-workers)?

What's at the root of his refusal to follow your directives relating to administration? Lack of training in admin? Arrogance? Lack of respect for you? Other?

How does his refusal to perform admin tasks in a timely fashion impact the workload of others? Is this a perk for star performers?

Will his unwillingness to meet deadlines make it more difficult to enforce those deadlines with others?

Will his unwillingness to meet deadlines skew data needed by management to plan, execute, and evaluate? What if others adopt this behavior?

How difficult would it be to replace him if you terminate him?

Considering the above (including the points raised by the others here) which provides the better ROI? His presence or his absence?

maura's picture
Training Badge

Two good quotes from Naraa.  I'll add a third:  "What gets measured gets done."