“What you resist, persists.” Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist/psychotherapist, is credited with this powerful quote.
If more supervisors followed it, fewer problems would develop on their watch. Sadly, most don’t.
Supervisors are busy. Some even overwhelmed.
They’re like the circus act where someone spins a plate on the end of a stick, puts it on his head, then takes two more sticks with plates and spins them in each hand.
No applause if the plates fall off…only sad sounding oohs from the crowd and maybe a boo from someone feeling mean.
Supervisors dread noise that doesn’t sound like attaboy or attagirl. Their job is to build a work group where employees keep lots of plates spinning, in spite of interruptions, faulty sticks, or a lapse in concentration.
Supervisors are continually on red alert for the material stuff that can disrupt performance:
- Equipment needing repair
- Technology flaws
- Processes that break down
- Cost overruns
They often see their job as running interference to avoid plates falling off sticks, when their most important job is to provide clear, consistent direction and behavioral standards to employees.
When employees know what is expected, they can do their best work. However, they don’t know if they’re meeting your expectations unless you tell them.
All behavior matters.
In general, supervisors don’t like to confront employees about problematic behavior, particularly when it seems incidental.
They chalk it up to:
- A bad day or a slight misstep
- A brain cramp
- No big deal
- Typical of “their” generation
Until, of course, you end up with a pattern, a full-blown employee problem that’s taking a toll. Your employees start looking at you with the unspoken question: “Why are you letting this happen?”
Crash go the plates!
Problematic employee behavior is a gift that keeps on giving if you don’t intervene early. Three typical categories are:
1. Testing the rules
- Periodically arriving late to work for legitimate sounding reasons
- Coming back “a little late” from lunch or breaks
- Missing meetings here and there
- Not reporting off as required
2. Reliability and dependability
- Not completing/submitting work on time
- Failing to communicate project status and/or needs
- Finding reasons not to support coworkers
- Making excuses
3. Interpersonal conduct
- Way of speaking to coworkers (harsh, demanding, critical)
- Negative body language, one-on-one or in groups
- Impatience, bullying, resistance
- Gossiping, nay-saying, over-socializing
Signs of these behaviors usually surface within the first three months after a new employee joins the work group.
When a supervisor takes over a new group, those behaviors have already taken root.
Job one is to take inventory of how each employee is conducting him/herself, assess what is positive and what isn’t, and immediately have a sit down.
The longer you wait to confront unwanted or problematic behavior, the worse it will become and the more misery it will bring to your job as supervisor. What you resist, persists!
The earlier you call attention to what you don’t want, the easier your employee discussions will go:
- Employees will know what you see and don’t want. That may be enough for them to change without further action.
- You obtain a commitment for behavior changes which will launch improvement.
- A dialogue starts, so you and your employee can get in a helpful performance feedback loop together.
- Employees will recognize your commitment to fairness and a positive culture.
Good supervisors are teachers. Their primary role is to let each employee know what it takes to be successful in his/her job and how to contribute to the work group’s success.
It’s a lot easier to keep the plates spinning when everyone holding the sticks operates in a constructive work environment where they feel confident, safe, and understood.
Early intervention when employees are out of sync with your expectations positions everyone for a winning performance.
Opening photo by Polpulox !!! via Photoree Plate Photo by fonso via Photoree