Preventing Fireworks and Creating Sparklers: A Positive Approach to Remedial Management
Posted by: Sue Harrington & Emma Trenier
It’s a telling coincidence that the number one reported reason that people leave their jobs is problems with their manager – and the number one issue that managers dread dealing with is problems with their people. Many managers would rather deal with angry customers or chase challenging sales targets than manage people problems.
One particular area where an escalating vicious cycle of fireworks often exists is managing underperformance and the responsibility for managing this typically falls at the feet of managers.
Research with managers, human resources practitioners and employees has shown that:
- Dealing with underperformance can be a lengthy and time-consuming process, and managers often feel that it conflicts with their ability to deliver their business objectives.
- Managers often feel ‘dumped on’ – they feel that they lack the training to handle complex personal issues, and feel ill prepared to tackle the difficult conversations around underperformance necessary for effective performance management.
- Feeling a lack of confidence or willingness to tackle underperformance can result in managers feeling isolated and unsupported in their roles.
- Communication around underperformance tends to be reactive and too late – conflict has already occurred between the employee and their manager, and these clashing perspectives can cause fireworks: the manager’s, sometimes bungled, attempts to manage underperformance can feel like bullying to the employee, which can then worsen any underperformance.
- Consequently, many grievance and disciplinary issues arise from performance management situations, often from the miscommunication associated with these situations. The worry of this happening can often stop managers from dealing with performance issues early and openly.
So what are the dangerous fireworks to look out for?
- First spark- Cases of underperformance can often be traced back to a specific incident, or a series of incidents that were not addressed at the time – perhaps the manager was too busy, perhaps they didn’t feel comfortable tackling the issue, or perhaps there had never been an on-going process of providing feedback, both good and bad – and it’s hard to start with the bad.
- The slow-burning fizzle – These unresolved issues can then fester, like a Roman Candle – never quite coming to a head like a Rocket, but creating an undercurrent of conflict and miscommunication.
- Big Bang – The longer it is left, the harder the issue is to confront. Conflict can often escalate in these situations, clouding the perceptions of both parties – both the manager and the employee are expecting the other to behave negatively, so that’s what they see. The manager becomes frustrated and angry, the employee feels harassed and may withdraw effort – it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and one that is very hard to break.
Here are Capp’s 5 steps to creating sparklers and avoiding those fireworks:
- First of all, understand your own strengths – how do they help you deliver timely feedback to your team? How do they help you to tackle more difficult conversations?
- Develop your strengths spotting skills: know what makes each of your team tick, what motivates them, and where their strengths lie. Use this understanding to help your employees recognise and maximize their own strengths.
- Set each individual clear and measureable goals that are aligned to their strengths, goals that will help to unleash potential and maximize performance
- Have regular performance conversations with each of your team. Provide proactive feedback on their performance – give each person examples of what they are doing well.
- Catch any issues early – be honest and clear about areas of potential underperformance and help individuals to think about how they can use their strengths to address any areas of weakness – and always provide examples.
When managers understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and those of their employees, they are better able to flex and personalise their management approach to proactively prevent performance-related conflicts. Capp’s 8-step Performance Manager Programme enables managers to do just this – equipping managers with the skills to manage through strengths, delivering enhanced performance through their people.
Download Capp’s Performance Manager White Paper to find out more about what people want from their managers.