Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace?!

No this post isn’t about weddings or marriage, but nobody’s perfect right? Least of all me. There have been moments in the past, and I’m thinking workplace here as outside of that could achieve a seriously long list where I’ve both put things off and done things wrong. Prime example of both would be aged 18, when the New Zealand legal alcohol consumption age limit was reduced from 21 to 18 on a Wednesday night and I was in my first job. Over excited by being able to legally drink in pubs and clubs my friends and I took to town. So over excited we were that we put off heading home until 5:30am, at which point my best friend and I who happened to work together at the time, concluded the best option was to get changed and head straight to work under the illusion that a blue Powerade would be all we needed to see ourselves right for the day. Not the best decision we’ve ever made.

The owner of the company found the whole thing hilarious and had a ball laughing at the pair of us; our direct manager however didn’t quite see things that way and even called my mother in to the office to discuss the situation, the working relationship was understandably strained and soured from that point on. Neither of these are model examples of how the situation should or could have been dealt with.

My point in divulging this misspent story of my past is that time and again I see managers who either chose not to deal with performance issues with staff or are ill-equipped to appropriately deal with the situation. The early addressing of staffing issues whether performance or behaviour based can ensure a much more satisfactory outcome for all parties.

Regular WIPs (Work In Progress) and/or coaching sessions with staff are essential for managers to keep on the pulse of their staff, gauging how staff are progressing and identifying where they may not be meeting performance and development expectations. They are also the perfect opportunity to give feedback to staff on where they may not be achieving key result areas. Similarly these sessions are also ideal for addressing behavioural issues such as repeated lateness or attitude problems. Catching issues early usually enables both parties to make amendments and adjustments for a swift resolution.

The flip side, leaving poor performance or behavioural issues with staff and allowing them to continue to a point where many managers want to terminate the employee’s employment reflects badly on all parties. Employees are often unaware of the problem at this point as this is the way they have always done things and are entrenched in bad habits, managers are at the end of their tether and want a fast resolution to the situation, other staff members are dismayed as they are often picking up the slack from said employee and there are bad precedents set and inequalities among employees affecting engagement and culture in the organisation. At this point situations become long winded and process needs to be adhered to to properly address the situation, meaning it sometimes takes months to get a resolution and they are rarely satisfactory to all parties.

As HR we need to encourage open communication between ourselves and people managers within the organisation and ensure either that they are equipped to deal with staffing situation or that if not, they consult with us on them. Have regular catch ups with them about their staff and their teams, make yourself available and keep abreast of staffing situations. Better still get out of HR and onto the shop floor where possible. We need to ensure people performance and behaviours are addressed early and that managers feel able to come to us for help and advice.

I probably should have entitled this post “The Sooner the Better” as it’s a more accurate description as something can always be done and it is possible in many instances to get a positive result, however much easier if done straight away. Though, whilst dramatic “Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace” probably creates more urgency!

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