Simply Say “Thank You”

It’s something that is easy to let slide in this always on, just send an email world, but we should all remember the power of words and acts of thanks.  Today’s workplace relies on employee thinking, commitment and engagement for success; employees who are appreciated and regularly thanked for their contributions, consistently contribute more, out-perform others and are more loyal. Besides being the right thing to do personally, it’s also great for business.

Thanking employees is a critical component of successful management. Appreciation and celebration activate emotions. And, strong positive emotions have been proven to inspire loyalty.  Here are ways that you can thank and show appreciation to your employees throughout the year:

  • Take the time to talk to, and get to know, your employees. An impactful way to thank and celebrate your employees is to get to know them. Schedule time to understand your employees. Use what you now know about them to build a customized skills-improvement performance plan. Spend time with, and become interested in, each of your employees. The one-on-one attention you invest in is a significant way to appreciate all your employees’ talents and contributions.
  • Ask employees what they think. The best way to feel appreciated is to be included and to feel that their perspectives matter. In today’s workplace, we need input from all of our employees; managers alone do not have all the answers. Including employees in company issues, challenges, and opportunities empowers them, engages them, and connects them to something important.
  • Say thank you, and mean it. Most managers actually do thank employees who do great work. Employees work for more than money. They work for the praise and acknowledgement of their managers. A sincere thank you, said at the time of a specific event that warrants the applause, is one of the most effective ways to appreciate employees. Remember the phrase, “What gets rewarded, gets repeated.” Start to say “thank you” or “I appreciate what you do” when it is deserved and it will inspire the behaviors to continue. Make it personal and sincere. Catch employees doing great things and respond. It empowers them, appreciates them, and celebrates their performance.

Remember, people may not remember what you said or even what you did the last time they spoke to you or met you, but they will remember how you made them feel by saying thank you!  Do you agree?

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Managing Slackers

Every workplace has at least one slacker that causes enormous amounts of aggravation, stress, and lost productivity. In some workplaces, the slacker is even running the workplace, running off talent, or worse, damaging the business.  

If you have a slacker on your team, here are things you can try to increase his or her productivity:

  • Keep them busy: Most people tend to slack because they perceive there is just nothing to do – well we know that is not true. Since this is most likely not the case, giving them plenty of work is one way to keep them productive.
  • Make them accountability: Sometimes people slack because they believe there is no accountability and they know they can get away with murder (most likely they have been slacking for some time). For some jobs a time study may be appropriate, where they record the work that is done on an hourly basis each day. If you are knowledgeable about their job, you’ll know what’s bogus and what real work is and how long it would take to accomplish any given task.
  • Give deadlines: Once a task is assigned make it clear that you need the work completed by X or Y day and time.  Don’t allow any extensions unless the request is reasonable.
  • Keep an Eye on Them:  Place their desk/cubicle in a visible area.  Slackers tend to live in the shadows where they believe no one can see them doing nothing. In order to counter this, set up their workspace in a way that their computer screen is facing a heavy transited hallway or your own desk. Being able to watch what the screen is showing can be a powerful deterrent because the pressure of others seeing what they are doing may make them think twice about spending half of the work day on a golf site.

If all else fails, the only thing left may be for you to use disciplinary actions.  But the important key is to document their performance issues and give prompt corrective action. This is because sometimes rehabilitating a slacker can be an unachievable task and the only way to solve the problem is to have to terminate the employee. In order to do this, you’ll want to be well prepared in case they decide to fight the decision in court. Having comprehensive and complete documentation will help when you may get potentially sued. Keep notes of each time you notice a performance issue, increased absenteeism, have had to talk to the employee about not being productive or anything that could be used as evidence when the time comes.

Do you have suggestions for curtailing a slacker?  Do you agree or disagree?

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The Coaching Game

There is much written about coaching specifically how effective coaching benefits employees and in turn their employer.  If you ask any manager if they believe in coaching as a way to improve employee performance and behavior, the answer most likely uttered would be “yes.”  The more experienced, skillful managers will likely know how to go about it. These managers know that coaching can be an important tool used to manage subordinate performance and an effective method for “teaching” others effective performance skills.

But do you know what to do when employees refuse to participate in coaching or rather play games in an effort to get out of being coached?  I am not saying employees are devious by nature. But even when you as the manager approach a coaching session with constructive intent, some employees will feel they are being scolded, manipulated, or otherwise disrespected.  And the evasive actions begin.  Listed below are some common employee diversionary coaching tactics, along with suggestions for stopping them:

  1. Let the Accusations begin.  As a manager, it is not unheard of that we may have to coach an employee whose behavioral problems were reported by co-workers. And we have all seen the employee that is being coached begin to lash out at us: “Who said that about me? Somebody’s trying to get me in trouble and I have a right to know who”.  As managers, we know it does not matter who reported the behavior, as long as the reports are accurate.  Tactic:  Remember that as managers we have confidentiality on our side.  A good response can be: “I understand you wanting to know the source of this information. But I keep my discussions with others confidential, as I do my discussions with you. So let’s focus on the issue and not who said what.”
  2. Playing the Comparison Game.  Another common employee ploy is to point out others who supposedly have the same problem and sometimes they even make the other employee’s problem worse: “Employee Y has a higher error rate than me. Or Employee X does it too.  Are you talking to them too?”  Tactic:  A good way to get over this obstacle would be to say: “If there’s an issue with Employee X or Y, I’ll talk with them. But right now we need to stay focused on your error rate and what’s been causing it.”
  3. The Pre-emptive Strike.  Employees usually have a good idea what the coaching session is about, and try to pre-empt it by saying things such as “You don’t have to tell me. I already know what you’re going to say. I’ve made a few mistakes lately but I promise that’s going to stop.”  As the manager, you should not let that end the coaching session. There’s much more that needs to be said, and done.  Tactic:   Do not let the employee divert.  Acknowledge and agree and set your expectations such as:  “It’s great you realize there’s a problem, because that will make it easier to solve. But I need to make sure you’re very clear on my view of the situation and my expectations.”
  4. The Denial or Minimizing.  Even if employees know what they’ve done, be prepared for them to deny it hoping that you will back down: “It’s not true that I talk inappropriately.”  Or the employee may feel that the facts are too clear to deny and will try to minimize them: “Sure, I don’t follow standard procedures. But why does it matter? I always get the work done.”  Tactic:  A good response: “If you don’t talk inappropriately, we have no problem. But I’ve gotten some feedback that’s different, so we are here to talk about that.”  Also, “It is great that you get the work done but it is important to follow procedures because of x, y, and z.”
  5. Deflection:  The employee admits there’s a problem, but claims they are not to blame. “These issues we are talk about, I’m never the one who starts them. It’s usually Employee X or Y.”  Tactic:  A good tactic to stop this diversion is to remind the employee that you are less concerned about who started what and want to set expectations on how to help avoid repeating these situations in the future.

Do you agree or disagree?  Have you faced these or similar diversion tactics from your employees?  How have you handled the situation? 

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The Meaning of ‘I’m Sorry’

What exactly do we mean when we say “I’m sorry”? It can be an apology (”oops I didn’t mean to do that”), a regret (”I should have done that.”), an excuse (”not my department”) or an expression of empathy (”I empathize with your pain, suffering, situation, and don’t pretend to have a way to ‘fix’ it so I’ll just be present with you”).

Recently, I have experienced “I’m sorry” as more of an excuse to lessen the punishment and/or as a promise that that they will not do something again such as I’m sorry…I yelled at my employee, stole from the organization, continue to act inappropriately etc. (you get the picture). The unfortunate thing is that people are saying “I’m sorry” without meaning it. Like “I love you” it is important when said genuinely, but prone to overuse leading to cheapening of meaning.

What has happened to individuals saying it to mean what it originally meant: I’m pained by the sadness/grief/trouble that I created. My actions/behaviors will change to reflect how authentic I am with this apology.   An apology is not only a potentially powerful act, but it can be a powerful tool when used appropriately. This power can help with settling conflict and moving forward.  By contrast, a botched apology can exacerbate the conflict and become itself the subject of conflict. 

But when an apology is appropriate, you should keep the following in mind to make it effective:

  • Look introspectively and apologize not to overcome denial or the impulse to excuse or justify your behavior or action but apologize because it is the right thing to do and you mean it! i.e. I am sorry I lied and stole from the company but I was forced into doing it.  Really?
  • Be genuine. Don’t give a half-hearted apology or one that is not genuine; it smacks of self-interest and will fan the flames of the conflict. i.e. I did not mean to yell at my employee, and it will not happen again.  Next thing you know, you are back in my office at HR for doing the same thing.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the harm. The greater the degree of empathy for the victim of the harm, the more potent the apology.  Further, your behavior and actions need to change to show you truly see what you have done and really are sorry. (see above)
  • Express remorse or regret. “I’m sorry” is an essential component of any apology. i.e. What you’re doing is asking to be “pardoned” when you’ve done something wrong and acknowledging regret in the rare situations when you wish you’d done something differently, and, when you genuinely feeling pain or suffering for the situation that you created. 

Stop saying sorry if you do not mean it.  And if you do mean it, change your conduct so it is seen as believable.  Do you agree or disagree?  Please share your comments.

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