Managing the process of a team project or managing a team itself requires the manager to take corrective action when a direct report or reports are not producing the agreed upon desired outcome or practice. You want to make sure that they change course and hopefully do so without creating a rift. If they will not change, then you’ll need to change the players, but here’s what you can do to take corrective action with your direct reports to get everyone back on track.
It’s easy to sweep the problem under the rug, especially if your employee is a high producer. But the easy way isn’t always the best way. If you notice something that needs to be corrected, take action. The conversation doesn’t need to be adversarial. But it needs to be direct and as soon after the incident as possible. Otherwise the employee will think the undesirable action was appropriate or they may forget about it over time. Correcting a problem immediately keeps it from becoming practice. If several warnings have been given and the employee hasn’t changed, don’t delay taking action. Put them on review or terminate them as soon as possible.
Ask Your Direct Report’s Opinion
As with all corrective action plans, the first step is to have a discussion. This should be a dialogue, not a monologue. Start by asking the employee how they thought the situation in question went. Get their feedback. If you and your employee are on the same page, chances are they will know what went wrong and you will be in agreement. If not, listen to them and don’t interject until they are finished. They may have insight to the situation that you did not and that new information may factor into your decision about what corrective steps need to be taken. If they don’t see a problem at all, then you have to consider whether they were communicated with ineffectively or if you have the wrong person in the wrong job.
Clearly State Why What They Did Was Unacceptable
Once it’s time for your part of the dialogue, tell them in clear terms why their action was unacceptable and what the business ramifications are. This is also an opportunity to reiterate what the desired actions and goals are. If the employee is a repeat offender, it’s acceptable to bring up past occurrences that are similar where the need for change was communicated but not followed. But stick to the present circumstance and tell them what needs to be done. In this case, telling them what the repercussions of not improving are. If you are putting them on probation, give them a strict timeline for improvement and what will happen if they don’t improve by then, including termination.
Highly productive employees can make mistakes, too. We’re all human. But don’t give them a free pass just because they are stars on your team. That sends the wrong message to everyone else. Treat everyone the same and have the same standards for all. Sure, your high producing employee may resent the correction and feel you’re not grateful for their contribution. But they are strong producers because they are good at what they do and they are dedicated, so chances are they will get back on track soon. This may inspire your lower producing employees to become better because you are not playing favorites. If that happens, you may wind up spending less time taking corrective action. That’s something everyone wants.