Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Employee Relations, Love it or Hate it

If I asked you to fill in the sentence: “I love my job because…” How would you complete the sentence?  How many of us can honestly say, “I love my job?”  Do we look forward to going to work each day?  Do we arrive at work early and often work later hours than normal?  Let’s be honest.  How many of us would really say, “I hate my job,” without the fear of being replaced. 

Employee Related Issues
One of the things that managers with direct reports dislike most about their jobs is dealing with employee issues.  If you are a manager with direct reports and never had to deal with employee related issues, then you are quite rare.  Even if your position is high in the ranking, you are still not exempt from employee related matters. 

Employees often bring personal issues to work in every level of the organization.  It is human nature that we are not able to turn off a switch when we walk through the doors of our employers.  Our personal lives can spill over into our professional relationships at work and can hinder our performance and productivity.  Effectively dealing with employee related matters are important.  Often times, employees are the first to know about other staff related issues and are personally connected, as it may effect their own productivity and the ability to work as a team or unit.  If managers procrastinate and do not confront difficult issues in a timely fashion, they will surely loose credibility with other staff members.     

Utilizing the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to assist employees in dealing with personal issues are good options for managers.  The employee should always be held accountable for their performance and behaviors, but EAP can be effective in preventing future corrective actions and adverse employment decisions.  Assistance in resolving personal issues can help employees concentrate on their work and working relationships.  We can either love it or hate it, but addressing difficult employee situations are absolutely necessary to remain productive and service oriented. 

Manager Tips for Presenting a Corrective Counseling
If you have already decided to take action and present an employee counseling, here are some steps in preparing for discussing (not delivering) the written counseling.

Gather resources

Discuss your concerns with your next level manager and/or Human Resources.  Know the guidelines for disciplinary actions and procedures for filing a grievance. If you believe that the employee will share personal or family circumstances as a reason for the behavior/performance/attendance issue, make sure you have your company Employee Assistance Program (EAP) information available.

Arrange the meeting time and place.
Be sensitive to the employee by insuring that you choose a place that is away from their coworkers.  Keep the meeting date as scheduled unless absolutely necessary.  Remember, this is stressful for the employee as well.
Plan the conversation – Never try to “wing it.”
Preparation is essential.  Employees can always tell how much thought you’ve put into the conversation. This is your opportunity to show your leadership skills.

The Conversation

The actual meeting may produce anxiety even in the most proficient and experienced manager.  It is normal that you may experience anxiety that the employee will become upset or angry.  Never loose your composure and remain calm at all times.  Your composure will set the tone of the meeting.  You should never used the word “attitude” and only describe behaviors (you sighed loudly, folded your arms and walked out).  When handled in a positive and constructive manner, your discussion can lead to effective solutions and improved work performance.
  • Get to the point quickly.  Tell the employee why you’re giving him/her this feedback. Avoid idle chitchat, (Tom, I’ve called you in today to discuss your conduct…).
  • Give specific examples (As you see on this report, it shows…).
  • Describe your reactions to what you’ve observed/investigated and how it is effecting the work or work environment.
  • Ask and expect the employee to explain his/her perception of the situation.
  • Ask the employee if he/she has any concerns about being able to meet your expectations.
  • Make a yardstick.  Tell the employee what you will be expecting in the coming days, weeks or months.
  • Create the expectation of responsibility (Janet, do understand that it’s your responsibility to meet expectations?).
  • Summarize the meeting.  Express your support.  Ask if there is anything that the employee would need to meet the expectations.
  • Schedule follow-up meetings.  Acknowledge and recognized when things are going well and coach when expectations are not being met.


Dismissing employees from employment can be extremely hard for managers.  This includes the difficult conversations with employees leading up to and during the dismissal process.  The movie, “Up in the Air,” staring George Clooney, depicts an individual who works for a company with his primary role being flying around the world and dismissing employees from organizations.  Several organizations pay the company to perform this particular task.  The movie is mostly about corporate downsizing but seems to imply that the dismissal process is so uncomfortable that companies would rather pay someone externally to perform this task rather than perform it themselves. 

Even though the movie is somewhat surreal, there are some components that remain relatively true.  Most companies hire an internal source for this role rather than pay someone externally.  This position is normally the Employee Relations Manager.  Depending on organizational preferences, employee dismissals are either coached or performed by the Employee Relations Manager. 

Who likes Confrontation?
Why do managers shy away from confrontation and employee dismissals?  One of the main reasons is that they are uncomfortable and can be highly emotional.  A dismissal can create a tremendous amount of stress for the employee and all involved.  It can adversely effect the employee, coworkers, spouse or significant other, children, other family members and threatens their survival ability.  A job loss is ranked extremely high in stress levels, just  behind death of an immediate family member.  With all of this in mind, let’s first acknowledge that confrontation and dismissals are difficult, even though they may be justified.  They are a part of a manager’s job in which it is perfectly acceptable to say, “I hate it.”  I can't think of anyone who really enjoys dismissing employees.  It's the part of the job that most managers would love to delegate.  Even though confrontation is difficult, behavior and performance expectations are not only necessary but also extremely important to a company’s bottom line.    

Providing services from the company Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for a period of time (normally 90 days) after dismissal can help the former employee and family members deal with their current situation. 

For a majority of us, there may be many things that we love about our jobs and then there are other things that we really don’t like at all.  Whether your job is tedious, repetitive and monotonous or varied and challenging, there may still be items that you like and dislike.  If you really love your job, is it a fling and temporary or do you retain that love over time? 

Employees who work for the same organization or same occupation over a long period of time often reach career plateau.  By definition, career plateau is a point in an employee’s career where the possibility of promotion within the hierarchy becomes relatively low or absent altogether.  Employees in this situation are often frustrated with the lack of progression and likely to have a significant adverse impact on company operations.  They can actually become unproductive and ineffective performers.  The outcomes include a negative impact on productivity, job satisfaction and turnover. 

Organizational leaders are not often aware of the operational and financial impact that stagnated and plateaued employees can have on organizational objectives.  Strategies for dealing with plateaued employees are often nonexistent in organizations.  The reason may be that plateaued employees often reach the required goals and objectives.  The question remains, how do we motivate plateaued employees to reach higher levels than the status quo.  How do we get them to maintain the same level of excitement over a long period of time? 

Strategies for Plateau

If you are personally feeling plateaued, here are some strategies to help deal with your frustrations;
  • Create a personal career goal on where you want to be and map out the career path on paper. 
  • Set realistic short-term goals from your career path and celebrate successes toward the ultimate goal.
  • Constantly work toward your career path and look for ways to broaden and enhance your skill sets.
  • Seek guidance, suggestions and network with individuals currently in roles in which you are seeking.  
  • Take responsibility for your own growth and direction and avoid placing your hopes in organizational provided solutions.
  • Have fun along the way.  Don’t get so extremely focused on tomorrow, that you forget about today. 

If you love your job entirely or bits and pieces, every component is an integer part of a larger picture.  If you are a manager, enhancing your skills sets in employee related matters could increase productivity and outcomes.  Since we spend so much time at work, shouldn’t it be enjoyable?  What do you personally do to make your job more enjoyable?  If you can answer that question, you should be able to fill in the opening sentence relatively easy.  Please share your comments.

~ Joseph Conrod Sr. SPHR


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