What’s Going On? – Part 9 in a Series on Handling Common Employee Performance Issues

Most people at work are good employees.  They do what’s expected most of the time.  They work hard, come to work every day and play well with others.  Some employees go above and beyond the normal expectations.  They arrive early, stay late and are nice to have around.  But then there are those few employees and occasionally good employees, when they do it wrong or not at all.

We have all asked ourselves at some point, “What’s going on?  Why can’t they just do what I asked them to do?”

Here in this series, we will highlight 13 reasons that can affect a person’s performance and provide some ideas on how to handle them when they arise.  Many managers feel that they are just not motivated, which leads to non-specific answers to the problem.  In contrast, knowing what the problems are changes the question from, “How do I motivate them?” to “How do I improve their performance?”  Understanding this concept leads to specific actions that can be taken.

They Are Punished For Doing What They Are Supposed To Do

Have you ever shot the messenger?  Has one of your employees come up to you to announce a problem or request your help only to hear, “What have you people screwed up this time?” or “Can’t you figure this out yourself? Do I always have to do these things?”

When people do things that are followed by punishment, they tend to do those things less frequently.  How else are people punished?

  • Employees who do difficult work well are assigned more difficult work.
  • Employees who make suggestions at meetings get to do extra projects to carry out the suggestions.
  • Employees sweeping up their work area are told that they are finally doing something that fits their skill set.

If the employee does not call the manager as needed, then the punishment would not have occurred.  Thus, the lesson is that you can avoid punishment by not doing some of the things you want them to do.  You would be managing employees to not do what you want them to do.

Mangers who yell and scream may indicate that they don’t intend to punish the employee, but the sad truth is that if an employee is punished for doing something, the manager’s intentions are irrelevant; the consequence that lands on the employee is what will influence future performance.

What Can You Do?

You have two alternatives:

  1. Change your behavior to remove the punishment.  When an employee sends you a report, don’t send back with only negative comments.  Thank your employee who comes to you with a problem asking for help.  Don’t use every infraction to chew-out them out about something.
  2. Provide a reward to balance out the punishment.  When difficult work has to be performed, reward the employee with easier work the next time.  If you need to have the work done that is beneath the person who is going to do the job, explain why the work or project must be done.  Explain how important it is and why they are being asked to do it.  Follow-up with a positive comment or give them a more desirable project the next time.

Learn more about handling employee problems.

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