Influencing a staff member’s performance, behaviour or attendance can be difficult, particularly if the problem has existed for some time and hasn’t been challenged. In that instance you might be portrayed as the villain as “there’s never been a problem before!” and that can make a situation more challenging, both while you’re in a one-to-one conversation with the staff member and as you continue to work with them.
Sometimes, staff members who are struggling with a particular aspect of their role, behaviour or performance will welcome your support. They’ll appreciate the courage and energy it has taken for you to raise the issue with kindness and compassion, supported by specific evidence. Those people are much easier to help but what about the ones who are quite happy with their under-performance? How do we influence, persuade and nudge them into making changes? Staff who don’t perceive there to be a problem when you clearly think there is one, are difficult to manage. A consistent and assertive approach is the key to them making changes.
With a consistent approach you can wear down the most resilient of under-performers as giving the same message repeatedly, supported by clear evidence of what the problem is and the impact the situation is having on other people, makes it very hard for people not to change. If a staff member doesn’t make improvements, following repeated attempts to identify the problem, its cause and impact, it will be necessary to adopt a more formal approach, of a disciplinary or capability route for instance.
While it’s always disappointing to get to this point with any staff member, you only have a certain amount of time available to manage performance issues and under-performing staff can take up much of that. The risk is that you spend more of your time on managing under-performing staff and neglect your high performers who may then leave your team or organisation as a result. It can be very difficult to strike the right balance.
Communicating with influence can secure an effective outcome quickly. Think about your style before you enter into a conversation with a staff member. Do you need to find an operational solution and is there time to think about what will work best? If so, a collaborative, non-directive style can work well in that instance. Do you need to find an operational solution within the hour? A directive approach is appropriate in that instance to resolve the issue but if possible, a follow up conversation to review what happened and think about how the issue can be dealt with differently in the future is useful.
If you direct people they’re less likely to learn than if you facilitate their thinking, to find their own solutions. It does take time and sometimes that can be frustrating but your organisational strength and resilience will be sustained by effective staff members who think about how they deliver their work. If you do that thinking for them, the dependency on you increases and that reduces organisational strength and resilience. Staff respond well when you encourage them to find their own solutions, when you demonstrate your trust in their skills and abilities.
You can find out more about how to influence change effectively in chapter 7 of Karen Warren’s book ‘Workforce Wellbeing – how to build organisational strength and resilience’.