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Managers - can you still motivate once formal unsatisfactory procedures have been started?

(10 Posts)
WhoWouldHaveStaff Sat 30-May-09 00:37:30

I'd be interested to hear if anyone has managed to salvage a working relationship and improve performance / motivation once formal unsatisfactory performance procedures are instigated.

It seems to me that by the time formal procedures are started, it is an indication that all the attempts at motivation, support, welfare, training, monitoring etc has been tried and failed, and that it would be hard for the working relationship to ever recover.

I don't really want to go into details, but I am involved in a situation where a staff member has chronic poor performance, accompanied by poor attendance, and most recently dishonesty relating to the circumstances relating to absences.

I manage a small team, working in the same office as the staff member. When I most recently challenged an unauthorised absence, the staff member claimed to have discussed it with me, and told me she was really angry with me that I thought she hadn't. Given the level of antipathy/dishonesty the staff member is displaying, I find it hard to see how things can be salvaged.

I intend to instigate formal unsatisfactory performance procedures, and in my mind, it feels inevitable that at the end of the process the staff member will be leaving. However, as a manager, what I really would like is to motivate / inspire the staff member to improve performance.

Is this completely unrealistic?

PS - I am a regular - have namechanged

AWinHW Sat 30-May-09 08:23:39

I think you can but it entirely depends how you approach it.

My first piece of advice is don't assume they will leave at the end of this process. Your thinking has to center entirely around your desire to improve their performance and make them a valued member of staff. Do everything you possibly can to help them and then at the end of it if there is still no improvement you can let them go without any worry that you could have done more.

If you start this with 'it'll only end one way' approach it will end up being long, drawn out and painful.

Has this person always worked for you or is it a team you've taken over? When i had to deal with this i found most of the issues my reports had where historical and the just needed to get them off their chest and move on!

Understanding why they were behaving the way the were really helped so we spent a LONG LONG time talking about EVERYTHING.

WhoWouldHaveStaff Mon 01-Jun-09 14:35:14

Thanks for the reply. I feel as if I have already tried absolutely everything I can over the last year. I have spent hours upon hours upon hours showing her how to do things, explaining why we do them, giving support, encouragement, training etc.

Despite all this, the staff member just does not perform.

She was moved into my team, from another section, with no experience of the type of work, and would not have had the skills to fit the job description. As a result, I have spent a lot of time trying to develop her skills and talking things through with her.

I have started to recognise a pattern - no matter what I ask the staff member to do - her first response is I can't do it because
I haven't been trained
No-one was there to show me
I didn't know what I was supposed to do
It's not my job
X told me to do it a different way (untrue)

As soon as that is challenged, she either says she forgot that she had been trained / shown how to do it / briefed etc or breaks down in tears.

I have got to the stage where my patience is wearing extremely thin.

Having spoken with her previous manager, it would appear that she has under-performed for years, and nothing has ever really been done about it, because the tears / blaming everyone else for her under-performance has meant that previous managers have backed off.

The most recent issue is her claiming to have informed me she was going to be off work. She hadn't done so and now is making an indignant fuss that her integrity is being questioned because I maintain that not only did she not inform me, but that it was impossible for her to have had the conversation she claimed to have had with me because I was on leave on the date in question.

I really feel the working relationship is almost beyond repair.

AWinHW Mon 01-Jun-09 18:54:43

I can see you are at your wits end and therefore I too would probably put her on a Work Improvement Plan.

I know it is a lot of work putting someone on this but it is worth it. I assume you have the documented evidence to put her on a WIP. If not then i would say to her that on Monday you're going to start again and then i would document EVERY conversation you have with her and ask her to check that she is happy with what you have documented. I would re-train her and document what, when, where and by whom she was trained. I would ask for every bit of leave she has to be emailed to you. (i would do this as well even if she is going straight on a WIP)

You must say to her that all of this is to avoid any confusion in the future as clearly somewhere there has been a misunderstanding (it doesn't matter whether you believe it is her or your misunderstanding).

Maybe you could put her on an Informal WIP and tell her that if she doesn't improve it will be formalised. That way if she improves she keeps her job if she doesn't she gets put on something that can ultimately lead to her dismissal.

Hope that helps and I'm sorry this is such a pain for you.

LoveBeingAMummy Tue 02-Jun-09 21:07:00


Two things struck me when reading this, firstly you can only improve things if the onther perons wants too and if nothing had ever been progressed then why would they change?

I ahve taken things further and I have got the results, but also had times where I've not and that's becuase they don't want to or can't do the job.

I would make sure you document everything, if she's forgetting/making things up this is the best way to keep track.

TheYearOfTheCat Wed 03-Jun-09 14:00:54

LoveBeingAMummy - when you say you got results by taking things further, were they long term genuine improvements in performance? Was there resentment that you took things further. Did the working relationship recover?

changednam Thu 04-Jun-09 22:50:26

I've been through similar, and things did improve.

I currently manage one person who has a formal written warning - instigated by me - and another who was on a work improvement plan.

They've both improved and are genuinely trying harder.

Some tips I'd give would be:

Separate the person from the behaviour in your head - it's the behaviour which is problematic, not the person themselves. This means you can still have a good relationship with the person, but be critical/working on improvement of the behaviour.

Make sure you define in writing exactly what is expected of the person, and discuss it with them. And keep records of every conversation.

Regularly praise what they do do right - there must be some things. Don't pick up on every minor transgression either, pick your battles.

Make sure you take HR advice and follow it.

If all of this fails and you've exhausted your company's procedures, then you've done all you can and dismissal would be the natural outcome...again, make sure you work within HR advice.

It's mentally draining I know, and hard not to let your emotions get in the way, but don't give up - it;s not fair to the co-workers if you don;t deal with the situation effectively.

WhoWouldHaveStaff Thu 04-Jun-09 23:17:00

Thanks - part of the problem is that it is really difficult to define the role precisely - and this is one of the things we both identified, was that the staff member wanted to have a particular task which she learns, then does again and again, whereas the work in this role is more fluid and unpredictable.

Good point about separating the person from the behaviour - easier said than done though, as it feels like I am dealing with a very manipulative individual.

Up to this point, I have felt quite sympathetic, as I really feel that she is in the wrong role, and just doesn't have the skills or abilities to do it, even with training. She didn't ask to be moved into the role, and despite me highlighting concerns to my manager at a very early stage, I have been told that I either get her to work or I deal with it formally. (not my words).

Having said that, I am getting pretty hacked off with the constant 'blame everyone else' attitude, and I can feel myself becoming quite emotionally involved with the situation - not least because it is creating huge amounts of work for me.

LoveBeingAMummy Fri 05-Jun-09 09:09:05

Attitude is the hardest thing to manage imo - but you can deal with why people ahve those attitudes.

A job must have clearly set objectives, its the only way you can measure her and then take action if required. SMART objectives have to be set, its not personal, emotion has to be taken out of it.

As you are getting more and more frustrated you will have to worker harder at this not coming across to your MOS.

It might sound bad but one way to look at how you are helping your MOS is to think that if you sacked her and she took you to court can you show how you have done everything you could to get her to fulfill her role? This is one of the reason I suggested documenting everything. It helps both of you be clear about what has been said, done and expected.

thecatoftheyear - yes long term improvements, good working relationship. It comes down to it not being personal but not in a cold way? ifswim? You need to establish what the MOS wants by asking them and then helping them to achieve it.

changednam Fri 05-Jun-09 10:56:12

If a level of decision-making is part of the role then you can define that as a requirement - but check that that is actually reflected in her job description first.

The staff I manage do have to work on their own a lot of the time and make appropriate decisions - but we make sure that they know where to go for help if they're confronted with a situation they're not sure about.

You certainly may need to go down a formal disciplinary route, but make sure you've exhausted other methods and given her appropriate support first, with the help of your HR department.

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