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Clearview® Performance Systems brings you ... ® ... a Culture of Results & Engagement®

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #60

Could You Be (Inadvertently) Putting the “De-“ in Demotivation? (Another in our "uh-oh" series) ...

I don't like to brag, but when you look up the words "work ethic" in the dictionary, what you'll find is a picture of my sister, Shelley. She is one of those exceptional individuals you can count on—no matter what the circumstances—to get a job done. Lack of resources? No problem; she'll figure it out. Roadblocks along the way? No problem; she'll go around them. Challenging people? No problem; she will educate or advocate or counsel or negotiate or mediate (or, if she has to, arbitrate) to accomplish the goal. And the organization she works for has valued from her tenacity and perseverance and grit for a long time. In fact, today is her 40th anniversary with the same company! Loyalty like that is a rare commodity. Congratulations, Sis!

The reason I mention my sister and, specifically, her work ethic, is she sent me a quote after last week's CORE Bites that really got me thinking:

"Nothing will [demotivate] a great employee faster than watching you tolerate a bad one." — Perry Belcher

As a reminder, last week's topic addressed the concept of equality versus equity; assigning rewards—however they are defined—based on merit. My sister's note raised the converse perspective that inaction on the part of a manager when facing an under-performing or misbehaving team member can have a significant demotivating effect on top performers. Not surprisingly, I received several other emails expressing a similar concern.

So why are some managers reluctant to address misaligned behaviors they observe in employees? One doesn't need a degree in psychology to understand that failing to address an inappropriate behavior implicitly sanctions it—in essence, giving the employee permission to continue. This inaction also frustrates good-performing employees who must continue to deal with their difficult or under-performing co-worker, leading to distrust of the manager (and, potentially, the organization) for their failure to respond.

Hmm ... not good.

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

The HVAs listed below will examine some common excuses managers tell themselves for not responding to inappropriate behavior and how to think and respond differently. Do any apply to you?

  • "But he gets the job done!" Excuse: Task performance depends on both KSAs (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities) and on interpersonal TTDs (Traits, Temperament, and Disposition). While employees may be able to perform the job-specific (technical) aspects of their jobs, they will not be truly effective without the ability to work, communicate and interact with others at an interpersonal level. For example, there's very little value when a person achieves a goal but leaves bodies in their wake—these sandpaper-people (people who rub people the wrong way), with their abrasive, harsh or negative behaviors, can bring down overall team performance and morale quickly. The solution? Treat performance as a formula with two elements: KSA x TTD = Performance. If the TTD's are missing, it's time for a CCD (Course-Correction-Dialogue). You aren't doing anyone any favors by letting a poor attitude fester. All employees need to understand that behaviors reflecting a poor attitude can (and will) be evaluated as part of their overall performance.
  • "I don't want to hurt her feelings." Excuse: By not addressing the misaligned behavior, you are sending the implicit message that the disruption and turmoil and angst other team members feel—as a direct result of the behaviors of the misbehaving employee—do not matter. The solution? While it's good to be sensitive and caring, evaluate your management approach and consider whether you lack decisiveness in the 'difficult' moments. You must weigh the costs of being "soft" on misaligned behaviors against the benefits of supporting many employees with the ultimate goal of a more positive work environment.
  • "If I didn't see it, I can't confront it." Excuse: I have to confess, I used to believe this myself. But what I have come to realize is if managers must rely solely on their own direct observations, they may never witness the misaligned behavior. Let's face it; a misbehaving employee may act like a perfect angel when in the presence of the boss (few will bite the hand that feeds them) but, out of the line-of-sight of the boss, will frequently engage in inappropriate behaviors or portray a bad attitude with co-workers (and maybe even your customers!). Clearly, a manager should never respond to hearsay or idle gossip about an employee. However, when you are hearing a consistent message about an employee from a broad cross-section of trusted employees, you may be dealing with a legitimate concern that needs to be acted upon. The solution? In the absence of hard-data (personal observation) use a version of "Joe, I'm concerned about the number of complaints I've been getting about [state behavior here]. Although I haven't witnessed this myself, if the reports are an accurate description of what's been occurring, this behavior needs to stop. This isn't a he-said/she-said discussion; all I'm doing here is reminding you that the types of behaviors described will not be tolerated. And this is true for everyone on our team, not just for you."

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"One thing I believe strongly in this life is that you just don't reward bad behavior."

— Phillip McGraw —