We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and these coupled with our likes or dislikes of certain tasks can often govern our workday and our careers. In a recent survey of the ten top reasons people are involuntarily terminated from employment, two of these reasons could point back at us as potentially bad managers as much as they point to bad employees. The article did not allude to the specifics of the reasons, but we need to analyze them to see if the failure was on the employer and employee alike.
One of the reasons stated a person gets terminated was a refusal to follow directions or orders. When we are giving directions, are we specific enough in our directions, or are we assuming that our employees know exactly what we mean? Are people not following our directions because we are stating them in an email which can be easily misunderstood or are we summarily giving directions as we hurriedly go about our day, headed for our next task? Are our employees seeing better ways to do things, and they see little or no value in our direct instructions? When communicating critical and new instructions, take a multi-step approach to communicating these orders. Make sure everyone that needs to hear the instructions is present to hear you state them. Second and third hand instructions can be easily misunderstood. Follow these critical instructions with written directions that match your oral instructions. Allow employees time to question and give their input into the tasks so that they have a clear understanding of their expectations and the importance of the task. Utilize the employees’ feedback to structure the task to their abilities and likes if possible. Remember that the employees are sometimes more of an expert at doing their job than we can ever be. Bringing everyone on board will help ensure that the task will be done correctly and to their best ability. There are few directions that have to be etched in stone and our flexibility can be the very thing that makes or breaks a task being carried out correctly.
Another reason that employees lose their jobs is because they are performing too much personal business at work. I know I am old fashioned in most of my opinions, and this is a subject that can be taken different ways by different people. Some see it as stealing when an employee does anything personal at work and others see it as allowing employees the flexibility to take care of things when situations occur. With fractured families and many single moms, we do need to be sensitive at times to people’s personal lives encroaching upon our work hours. We all work because we have to and life can be stressful away from work. I am of the opinion that a happy employee is a more productive employee and allowing a little personal business at work helps productivity and helps keep better workplace morale. Some employees are of the mindset to where they can’t function well if something in their personal life is going on that needs their attention. Set limits on your expectations as to how much or how little personal business your employees can perform at work. Let them know that you are approachable and can allow them some flexibility. Allow them to communicate the need for taking care of personal things during work hours. You can work out a way for them to clock out, take care of things, and then get back to work without the thoughts of nagging personal needs detracting them. As always, you will have those who try to take advantage of these situations and we as managers have to set the limits and impose disciplinary action. Open lines of communication with your employees will help both sides out when it comes to personal matters interfering with work. I once heard a speaker state that we managers need to often make deposits into employees’ emotional checkbooks so that when we have to make “withdrawals” the process will be made much smoother.
Employees all have worth, and we all felt this when we hired them, or we wouldn’t have given them their jobs. When things are going wrong with an employee, remember their worth. Discipline when/where needed, but work toward utilizing the employee’s strengths and aptitude to help them come to terms with workplace requirements. Through it all, communicate openly. Sometimes all we need to take a problem employee and make them a great employee is to recognize their abilities and invest in a better understanding of them.