Friday, June 7, 2013

Why Do You Wait To Improve ?

In my current role, one of my least favorite things that has to be done is a thing called Performance Management, or PM for short.  I am sure almost every company has this kind of process that their managers or supervisors have to do.  Results are tracked and reviewed over a specified period of time and if improvements are not made (presuming goals are already not being met) then the supervisor has to manage that performance (see: discuss with and/or write-up or even fire the employee).

Progressive has a very accomodating PM process, wherein people are given multiple opportunites to improve, and are provided with coaching on how to make these improvements.  There are technically 5 steps of PM, but even the first step doesn't occur until a pattern of poor performance is indicated in the reviewed results.  A completely fictitious example will illustrate what I mean.  Feel free to skip this next paragraph if you already get it.

Employee X has an objective that requires them to produce 10 widgets per month.  In month One, they produce only 4 widgets.  In month Two, they also only produce 4 widgets.  At this point, a "Discussion" is held between the Manager and X, wherein X is advised their performance is not up to standard.  In month Three, X produces 5 widgets, an improvement but nowhere near the expectation.  Now the Manager provides X with a "Documented Warning" reminding them that immediate and substantial improvement is needed.  In month Four, X produces 6 widgets, still an improvement but still well short of the goal.  The Manager now provides X with a "Written Warning" with the same coaching and serious tone, but now this document becomes part of X's permanent file.  In month Five, X produces 4 widgets, still not at the goal and not even improved any longer.  The Manager provides a "Final Written Warning" which basically reminds X that failure to improve again will likely lead to the final step, "Termination" of employment.

Here's my beef about why I dislike this so very, very much.
There are two reasons ...
First, the paperwork involved to move Employee X to each next step is so time consuming.  It is boring.  It is arguably a waste of time (shouldn't the manager be coaching and leading instead of filling out paperwork?)  And if the employee just made improvement after the first "Discussion" it would be unnecessary.
Second, Employee X will often wait until the Written Warning stage before making sincere efforts to improve.  Worse yet, after the improvements are finally made, Employee X will often complain "why did you have to make such a big deal out of this?!  why couldn't you just tell me it was important earlier on?!  why am I getting written up for this without having any time to improve?!"


If you listened to me when I first advised you of the issue or concern, then we would never have to have more serious discussions.  But your choice to wait to improve kept us on this path longer than either of us wanted to be here.  Stop waiting.  Just make improvements after the first chat.  Please.

Song Of The Day:
Jack Johnson's music always mellows me out, especially when I'm in one of those frustrated-at-other-people moods.  His song "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing" reminds me of these employees who choose to sit (instead of make changes), wait for next steps, and wish (after the conversation) that they didn't happen.  Many of the words from the song are applicable to this post as well ... "must I always be playin' ... playin' the fool?"


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