Problematic worker? You probably aren't communicating what you want from your team

Sue Ingram
A worker uses a loudspeaker as he protes
You shouldn't have to shout to communicate with your team (Source: Getty)

Being a manager is a hard job. And it doesn’t get much harder than when you have to tell someone they aren’t making the grade. I’ve been witness to many such meetings and all too often, it was the manager who left feeling dejected, not the employee.

Why? Because during the conversation it became clear the manager had failed to tell the staff member what they actually wanted. Too many times I saw the individual look genuinely surprised and say “Am I supposed to be delivering this?”.

Before you laugh and think “How dumb can a person be?” I suggest you double check with your own team their understanding of what they are supposed to deliver. Also, take the opportunity to check with your own manager that you’re both clear on what they are expecting from you.

It is human nature to think when we say, “you are now the IT support member for the team”, the person receiving the message has exactly the same idea of what that means as we do.

There’s a great quote from George Bernard Shaw which sums up the common human fault we share on this: “the problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished”.

So if you think you have explained fully what you want from your staff, think again. Or, more importantly, communicate again.

These not so common elements of a job role that should be communicated but are often not:

  • Why this job role is important and how it fits in and supports the overall team and organisational objectives
  • What decisions they can take independently and what needs authorisation or agreement from others
  • Just who they can call upon to support them and who they in turn answerable
  • What resources can they access
  • Where the boundaries lie between themselves and other team members/departments and exactly who is responsible for what
  • How they report their progress and difficulties, to who and when

In addition to these very practical clarifications there is another set of expectations that need to be clear so that you can take action and hold people accountable in the future with no embarrassment or argument: how you expect people to behave in your team.

For example, we assume people will behave respectfully - but it’s easier to have a serious word if you have made it really clear that respect is what you value, expect and monitor. To provide real clarity you would need to provide, or have your team create, examples of what is and is not considered respectful behaviour.

You may also decide to define expectations around time keeping, proactiveness, or team work. Clarify these and you may even hit the managerial gold strike and begin to have team members manage themselves by making such statements as: “We need to support David, he has a big project on at the moment with a crucial deadline’”

Define what you want. Then if a serious word is needed you can fairly and honestly speak up.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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