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Dealing with Poor Performance
I remember in my early days of management someone relating discipline to a red hot poker. If you touch a red hot poker you know you will get burnt. The harder you touch it the more it will burn. The poker does not discriminate; anyone who touches it gets burnt. It burns straight away so conditions you not to keep touching it.
Discipline should be no different.
Last week I listened to a feature on the radio talking about driving offences and whether or not people should lose their licences even if they are dependent on their car for their job. In the UK we have a points system that states that when you reach 12 points on your licence you should be banned from driving until the offences have lapsed.
Why have the system if some magistrates then let people off the hook and allow them to continue to drive and re offend. If you've been caught driving on the motorway using your mobile phone why is someone who drives for a living any less likely to be a risk to others than someone who doesn't? To be caught a second or third time should come as no surprise to lose your licence and maybe your job. So soapbox rant over...
But is this any different from the way you treat people who break the rules at work?
Rules may be set by legislation, the business, the individual site or department or there may be the unwritten 'rules', standards or guidelines set by the individual team or line manager. Whoever has set the 'rules' needs to ensure they are not only communicated, but check they are measurable and people understand why they are important. Any rules or standards laid down that you have difficulty explaining begs the question are they necessary? (OK, there may be some legislation we find difficult to explain at times, but any internal rules with no value should be reviewed and updated or binned).
Failure to do anything about it sends the message to everyone else that it's OK to break the rule. We sometimes misguidedly believe that it's a one off or the problem will go away; but before you know it the problem has escalated - either the person in question continues to disregard the rule or standard, or it becomes custom and practice for everyone to follow suit.
So nip it in the bud and address it straight away. This does not mean giving everyone a lecture in a group meeting - all this does it makes the 'non offenders' irritated that they are all being 'accused', whilst those to whom you are aiming your comments either just laugh it off, or it goes by without them realising you are referring to them.
Of course every business should have its own disciplinary process, and I am not going to go into that here. But irrespective of the seriousness of the problem - whether it's someone being late, not greeting a customer in the way you'd expect, breaking health and safety rules, failure to carry out part of their job, arguing with another member of staff, or doing something in a haphazard way with a poor result - there are three phases to dealing with poor performance. Your goal is to resolve the issue and improve performance in future.
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