One of the most dreaded situations you can face as a manager is when negativity starts to creep into your once productive team. One by one, your team members are affected and in true domino effect fashion, they fall behind on their work and productivity. The energy is sucked out of your team and suddenly little issues which no one used to pay attention to have become big problems that drive people mad.
As the manager and team leader, you must take swift action to deal with this situation before it worsens. So, where do you begin?
Although the thought of dealing with people problems may be enough to stop most managers dead in their tracks, it is important to understand that hoping for the situation to resolve itself is not a viable strategy. Nor is handling the situation with an iron fist, machine gunning everyone on your path a good idea, too.
One method that you can adopt is to open the communication channels. Instead of issuing threats and warnings for people to buck up or get out, which may be perceived by your team members as you hiding behind your authority, communicate your intention to solve the issues together as a team.
Let everyone know that you are open to discussions and suggestions. This is helpful because you want to collect information from your team that will allow you to determine the real causes for this negative change in the team.
Eventually, you may discover that most of the issues actually start with one or two people in your team. If that’s the case, how do you handle them? Especially if they have been dedicated and productive team members in the past? Not an easy situation to be in, don’t you think?
There are 3 areas that you can address when you confront them. You can focus on their attitude; behavior and performance or results. Each of these will produce different results and should be handled carefully. The moment you start on the wrong foot, it will be difficult to change the direction of the discussion.
In the author’s opinion, you should never start off by discussing about the person’s poor attitude, no matter how much proof you can bring to the table. This is because it will trigger defensive behavior in the person.
For example, if you start off by telling the person, “Recently we have received several complaints about your behavior on the job,” don’t expect this person to say, “I’m sorry.” Instead, you would most likely hear, “Who complained about me? Yadda, yadda, yadda.” Whatever follows next is of little effect because the person is too caught up with the complaint to even communicate with you.
The next approach you can use is to begin by discussing about the person’s specific behavior and performance on the job. However, be very careful that you don’t make any sweeping statements that can’t be backed up with proof. Instead of saying, “You are always late for work” say something like, “Last month, you were late in coming to office on 15 days.
And each time, you were late by nearly 15 minutes.” No one can argue with facts. However, you should be prepared to listen to all sorts of reasons and excuses and handle them accordingly. One thing to note is this works better with newbies in the team who are still adjusting to the team work ethic.
The final approach is to discuss about results, or in this case the lack of it. This is effective if you are dealing with experienced team members who already know what their role is. Once you start discussing about results, be prepared to offer your support.
Most top producers who suddenly experience a dip in performance are likely to be facing problems which are bothering them. And the problems may even be personal in nature. So, you have to take a stand without coming across as a slave driver because that will only kill your team member’s morale.
Saying things like “Don’t bring your personal issues to the workplace” is just a waste of time because who doesn’t get affected by their personal issues? Instead, offer moral and real support and at the same time, drive home the importance of maintaining a high level of job performance.
By keeping the communication channel open, your team knows they can count on you. Offer them your support and be persistent in demanding high level of performance from your team. You will see your team get back into shape.
By Nathan Dean