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Submitted by rebecca.bither@... on


I just brought in a new-to-my-team employee 1.5 weeks ago. (He's been with the company about a year.) I know it's only been short time but he's already displaying some disturbing behaviors: playing on his phone, disappearing from his desk for 45 minutes at a time, sleeping in my staff meeting, lack of motivation/engagement in picking up new tasks. Obviously, I'm not at the negative feedback phase of the trinity.  If I wait to build a relationship before addressing the problem behaviors will I have created an environment of acceptance for these issues? I really want to set some ground rules for him. Any advice?

LEmerson's picture

Your concern about creating an environment of acceptance is valid. Although information is limited, it seems this situation could warrant a performance improvement plan rather than routine feedback. This would depend on what authority you have to terminate employees. It's difficult to imagine the behavior not being disruptive and toxic. The longer you wait to address it the less chance of a successful outcome.

Although you need to focus on behaviors, there is probably some underlying cause. Hopefully it's something the employee can control and he or she will fix it.

I'm sorry I can't remember the name of the podcast, but there is a discussion about employees who display particularly substandard behavior, which also discusses the PIP. During this process it's valuable to keep detailed notes of what, when, etc., in case you find the need later to justify the steps you take.

To be honest, most problems I've had with directs in similar situations tend to work out poorly. I don't mean to be pessimistic, but it's reality from my perspective. Helping someone improve their performance or overcome certain challenges is one thing, but getting people to completely change their attitude toward the job is another.

H Cleall's picture
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Hi Rebecca

I was a new manager to the company and I inherited a team that was only half jokingly called the 'remedial' team as so many of the staff I inherited had poor behaviour. I didn't know about MT back then (it was 2002 so I don't think it even existed). We were struggling to resource the department so my end game plan was to retain as many staff who worked well as I possibly could. It is easier to retain than recruit and a lot cheaper! My team was considered toxic and the managers all agreed it would impact the rest of the department. Action was needed now to prevent contagion and unrest so I did the following:

Prepared for my meeting considering where we were, the outcome I wanted and the roadmap to get there

Held a 1:1 and explained the goal of the team, why it was in danger of failing and how the individual was contributing the potential to fail. I was positive in my language and said things like I don't believe anyone sets out to do a bad job etc

Walked through the job description and confirmed this was the role they applied for and the role they were in

Then we discussed Key Performance Indicators and what I expected from them in terms of behaviour and output including the how. This included what success looked like. Basically objective setting.

Agreed to hold weekly 1:1s and held them. They were the most important thing in my calendar and I never missed. I gave clear examples of good and bad performance and behaviour I'd seen over the week (really bad behaviour resulted in instant feedback) and the consequences of what they had done both good and bad.

Performance for some improved and weekly 1:1s continued and I gained their trust. They could see they were all being treated the same - even those who had no performance issues. There were no fabvourites and everyone was expected to deliver the same amount of output over the month.

Performance for others didn't improve and I then explained if we don't start to see improvement by x date then we will be moving to PIPs. At this point I held a meeting with HR to let them know what was going on and in case things became more difficult. They gave me some advice on company PIPs and disciplinary and final exit in case we got that far.

PIPs were put in place and some improved, and some didn't

For those who didn't we went down the formal discplinary route and most of these people left of their own volition. A few were fired by me and weren't surprised. They admitted they were hanging on as long as they could. Some even thanked me for pushing them to find a job they really wanted. Others just left sullenly. But 12 out of 15 stayed and improved output and behaviour to satisfactory.

They key point for me is however you manage performance, follow the same process for everyone. Do not show favouritism and treat people with the same courtesy and respect. Document every discussion and plan you make with the person and give them a copy. There should be no surpises even if you have to fire them. You might find the podcast called The Corky Story useful. Its a brilliant example of managing a poor performer.

I hope this might be of help to you and that you sort your problem out soon.

Kind regards