62. How Gracious Are You?
You may remember the feedback sandwich. It's a way of giving negative feedback without reducing the other person to tears, or driving them towards the job pages. It is a kindly way of encouraging someone to do better. But sometimes this kindly approach doesn't work. What do you do when that happens?Imagine that you had a member of staff who was persistently late. You have mentioned this a few times, by way of appreciating his work and saying how his performance could be even better if he were more punctual. These chats are accompanied by a smile and a chummy pat on the back. He always apologises to you and provides an improbable excuse, and he then improves his time-keeping for about four days. After that the old habits creep back and he resumes his casual entries into the office at anything up to forty five minutes late. More recently you've noticed that the half life of the chat effect seems to be shortening.His colleagues are fed up because they have to cover his phone when he's not there. A couple of clients have complained that he has not done things when he said he would. Your boss has raised an eyebrow on more than one occasion.You sigh, because you gave this young man a job as a favour to his mother who is an old friend of yours. You don't want to upset him and you certainly don't want to find yourself having to sack him. You let things run for a while because, as well as the personal aspects of the situation, you don't like confrontations and it takes a while to work yourself up to having a difficult conversation. The lateness starts to spread into the afternoon, his lunch hours elongating into an hour and a quarter, even an hour and a half on some occasions. You have another little chat along previous lines, perhaps with a bit more fervour. He apologises and assures you that it's just because his new watch is running slow and he took a while to realise.There are times when the softly softly approach doesn't work and this is one of them. You may think you are being kind when you allow something like this to continue, but really you are not. You are teaching this young man, starting out in his career, that he can get away with being late. He is already unpopular with his colleagues, which will not improve his enjoyment of work, he is annoying clients through his absences which will affect his ability to meet objectives, and his boss's boss has the eagle eye on him. One day there is going to be an almighty explosion and everything for this young idiot is going to go very wrong indeed.The trouble is that he doesn't know this, because you have never allowed him to experience the consequences of his behaviour. You've covered for him with clients, placated colleagues; you've even taken his phone calls. Why should he change when nothing in his world is wrong? You are dealing with the situation in this way because you want to be kind. You want to be kind to him and you want to be kind to yourself. The irony is that you are not being kind, to either. Moreover, far from resolving the situation, your actions are actively maintaining it.To be kind in this instance you have to be tough and that may involved a frank conversation about the consequences of being late again, which may be demotion, working additional hours at the end of the day, a formal caution and ultimately the sack. By doing all this you are giving him a fighting chance of getting his act together and keeping his job. Try this:1. Think of someone who keeps doing or failing to do something, despite being repeatedly asked.2. How is that affecting you?3. How is that affecting them?4. Why are they not 'getting it'? Is it because they don't care, they don't understand, there aren't any consequences for them or the consequences are not inconvenient enough, they are waiting for the consequences but you keep protecting them,there's something you haven't understood, it's not high enough on their list of priorities?Good luck!Until next week.Anita