I finally got around to reading this book – “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker after hearing it recommended time and time again for dealing with potentially dangerous situations and to help determine if a relationship is abusive.
This book has been on my list for a long time, but it has always been a lower priority, in the context it usually is recommended (or that I’ve seen it recommended) it didn’t apply to me at all. How wrong I was. This book applies to everyone. I was amazed at some of the common sense advice that can be easily applied to many situations at work and in your personal life.
One of the key messages that hit me revolves around how do you fire someone, and when do you do it. If you are going to fire someone for reasons other than pure performance – for example due to behavior that is threatening or otherwise intimidating you need to do it as soon as possible. This doesn’t mean that you don’t tell the person directly why their behavior is inappropriate in order to remedy the situation. The problem is that most people are loath to approach someone like this in the first place. They wait and wait until a seemingly small infraction becomes the straw that broke the camel’s back. This is bad news. First off, the behavior has been implicitly condoned rather than immediately addressed. Secondly, the perpetrator has become more and more invested in their job over time. And third, since the firing appears to be over a small matter it may be taken badly since the person knows they have done more egregious things in the past.
Another key point of this section is to make sure to treat the person with dignity. If you’re afraid of them, don’t bring muscle into the meeting. No security, no cops, no escorts. This is counter intuitive, but showing your fear and the expectation of a bad outcome actually empowers the person to create one. You are showing that this is what you expect, no? This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be available if a situation escalates, but this backup should not be visible.
Clearly another key item is to not beat around the bush when you tell someone they are fired. Be clear. You don’t want them to assume that it is just another performance appraisal and a request for change. Also do not negotiate. I loved the boomerang line – “If you had made the decision to leave we would have respected it, and we expect the same from you.”
There are many more lessons in here that can be used in running a successful business. I’ve also added more intuitive skills to my arsenal due to reading this as well. As a woman who has extensively traveled, I’ve become accustomed to late night arrivals and dark parking lots and garages. This book helps me to be better prepared to recognize a situation before it becomes a bad one.
Making the Case for Unequal Pay and Perks
Treating top performers the same as weaker ones is “strategic suicide,” say backers of a compensation revolution
By Michelle Conlin – Business Week
This article surprised me, not because of its content, but because this was considered a “new” idea. Maybe it is just the fact that I’ve been working in small startup companies in high tech for many years that makes me familiar with this. I’ve always recognized that there are a very small handful of employees that a company cannot live without. These are the employees that invariably get the biggest salaries, bonuses, and perks. As a manager these are the folks that you have to take care of.
I know that during the dotcom bubble everyone received big pay raises. If your company didn’t value you as much as you liked – all you had to do was go somewhere else. If you worked for a large company with a big bankroll you likely held onto that big salary increase during the downdraft. If you were an under performer at a small company and you were overpaid you invariably were laid off. It probably took you a while to find another job, and you probably took a pretty good pay cut. If you were a top employee you either were held onto at all costs, or if your company shut down one of your many contacts snapped you up – and not at a bargain price.
I suspect this article really is targeting larger companies that typically have had large HR organizations who flattened salaries to average toward the market mid-point.
I recently found this article in my queue of possible postings and reread it. I think that has wonderful advice for those who have gotten some less than stellar performance feedback. As a leader I would love to have people on my staff follow through with these ideas if they were in this situation.
“News of the worst unemployment numbers in 16 years is enough to create plenty of job jitters for most workers. But, with performance-review season in full swing, some people are bound to hear negative comments. In a tough economy, a bad review can seem insurmountable. But you can recover if you are “willing to self-assess and be open-minded to what is being told” to you, says Barbara Mohl, president of HRConnected, a human resources consulting firm. Here’s how to bounce back:” Wall Street Journal Article
How can you tell if someone is going to fit into your team and become a productive member? It can be really hard to figure out without seeing the person working. Sports team typically have try-outs, or the coach will go out on scouting trips to see athletes in action. This helps to determine raw ability but it doesn’t help in figuring out if the person is a cultural match. We’ve all seen what happens when a prima donna star performer acts out. It can really blow the morale of the entire team.
Another thing that can blow morale is when a team member is added who just can’t keep up. Somehow you and your team made a bad decision to bring them onto the team. This isn’t good either. The team gets frustrated with the individual, even if they like him or her as a person. The individual can feel like they are being attacked. Recently we added a new team mate to our volleyball team. Unfortunately our captain didn’t spend enough time finding out the actual skill level of this person. It was bad. Basic technique was not there. She had no experience running the offense that we were playing. She was always standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. Because her skills were weak our captain would have her setup in places where she would do the least damage. This meant a lot of the time that she was out of position and the rest of the team wasn’t aware of what he was doing. People got downright angry. She also took balls away from people. Balls that were called (i.e. “mine”/ “I got it”). Balls that truly belonged to someone else by definition of the game. She did this to me a few times. One time I knocked her down because I didn’t see her step in front of me as I was running at full speed to set a ball. Someone was going to get hurt. Our captain needed to talk to her about the mismatch in skill level and the danger to her and to the team.
Luckily when you make a mistake like this at work, nobody will get injured – at least not physically. First step – make sure that your hiring process is rigorous and that you really screen people before you hire them. If it is possible to bring a person on as a temporary contractor or on probation – DO SO! Have a trial period to make sure that they will work out before you commit to them. Step two – make sure they have all the resources they need to do their job. If not, you are setting them up to fail. Step three – if after screening carefully and providing resources you find that the person cannot successfully do the job… do what is right for the team. Let the person go. This is also humane for the person who knows that they don’t fit in and aren’t able to keep up.
I guess I should come clean. Reviews are on my mind right now because I need to write the performance reviews of my team over the next week. I am procrastinating a little bit this year. Only one of my direct reports has been with me for the whole year – the rest are fairly new, less than 6 months. This first review is critical. I want to address things that I’ve seen, but I also am still gaining their trust. I’m not completely sure how anyone is going to react. I guess that I just need to do what has worked for me in the past.
One of the key things I have learned is that you have to put some work into these things to make them worthwhile. There’s nothing that I hated more than having a manager who would skimp on my review. I didn’t care if it was generally positive. What I cared about was content. If you aren’t spending the time on these things it is immediately obvious. There is nothing that tells an employee that you couldn’t care less about them than a vague review. Be specific. Be very specific. Examples are terrific. Using your intuition can also be rewarding.
You’ll know when you did a really outstanding job – when a crusty old veteran says “That was the best review I ever had. It was obvious that you put a lot of thought into it. I even agree with what you think I need to work on… thank you.”
Recently there was an article on Wall Street Journal online in which the author blasts the yearly performance review as a completely useless exercise. Get Rid of the Performance Review! I apologize if this link is for subscribers only.
I have to admit there are a few points in this article that I find compelling. Yes, if you’ve got a bad corporate culture reviews can kill morale and teamwork. Yes, reviews are subjective and can change dramatically depending on your manager. Yes employees think that their raises are tied to their reviews. (although this is rarely true in practice!)
However, I vehemently disagree that performance reviews should be killed altogether. I see the review as a way to capture the essence of all of the good things that happened over the year. I don’t care who you are or what you do, there are things that you did well in your job and your manager should recognize them. I am tickled pink every time one of my employees reads their review and finds something positive in there and tells me “I didn’t think that you even knew about/remembered that – I forgot about it myself”.
I also believe that the review is meant to provide constructive feedback. This is not sharp criticism, but examples of things that could be improved and the encouragement to change.
Maybe I am fortunate. I have only had two instances in my management career where reviews that I have given have greatly upset the receiver. In both cases the reviews were a surprise. One, because I inherited the person shortly before the review period and I gave the review based on the previous manager’s feedback and 360 peer feedback. The other because I failed as a manager and didn’t give any negative feedback prior to the review. Both were unfortunate. I learned a lot from this.
Reviews should never be a surprise.
This sounds stupidly obvious, but it is not to a lot of managers. If you aren’t communicating and connecting with your employees throughout the year you are bound to surprise them. Rarely is the surprise a “good” one. If you hide from delivering feedback your employee will NOT know that there is a problem. You need to make sure that everyone gets that chance to modify their behavior. This needs to be done as soon as possible. Don’t wait – the feedback should be fresh – within a day or so (sometimes you need to give yourself time to cool off to be constructive). The feedback also should be specific – this is not the time to be vague. Even waiting a week is too long, you will lose that specificity. Putting the feedback down on paper after months have passed is terrible. This makes the infraction is a concrete permanent failing. Working through issues on a day to day basis is a lot more forgiving. The best constructive feedback in a written review is one that details an issue, talks about what already has been done to address it, and suggests additional actions to take.