As supervisors, we try to understand what we see and hear, putting it into some kind of context so we can decide what, if anything, we should do.
No one said the job would be easy, but there are times it seems impossible.
Pay close attention
All employees come to work with personal job expectations and the history that spawned them.
As supervisors, we expect employees to perform their job duties, achieving set goals and adhering to standards and practices.
Unfortunately, some employees don’t see their jobs from either a supervisor’s or the company’s perspective. They see them predominantly through a lens focused on their personal needs.
The temptation is to label these employees as immature, self-absorbed, and/or clueless, and then assume they are “young,” newly-minted entrants into the work world. Both would be a mistake.
Instead, the first signs of immaturity, self-absorption, and cluelessness that impact work negatively need to be identified and discussed with the employee right away.
As supervisors, if we let them slide, we:
- grant employees a pass to continue them
- validate that they are acceptable
- establish them as the basis for replication by others
- fail to correct issues that will hurt their future opportunities
If this makes you feel like a parent, that’s probably apt, especially for supervisors who have employees that don’t know how to:
- behave professionally
- connect their work with “why” and “what” they are paid
- subordinate their personal wants and needs to the “team”
- connect the dots between what they do and how it affects the business
Make them matter
Part of a supervisor’s job is to help their employees avoid self-destructing, especially out of naiveté. This isn’t easy for two reasons:
- Those conversations generally awkward for the supervisor.
- Employees don’t want to or can’t, at the time, hear what you’re saying.
Employees are important people in any organization. It costs a lot to hire them and to fire them. By the time you get to supervise them, there was probably money spent to train them.
Aside from that, if, you, as a supervisor, know that an employee is doing things that will negatively affect his/her career, you really need to try to get through to them.
Think of it this way: If the employee’s behavior continues, they will eventually be so undesirable anywhere in the company, that they may one day lose their job. What you do to help them may save them from themselves.
Cues and clues
It can be easy to gloss over behaviors that lead to problems over time. They may seem unimportant at first, but when added together, can become career ending. Here are some examples:
- Work attire that pushes the envelope
- Excessive socializing
- Excuses for unfinished work, lateness, and non-compliance with direction
- An undisciplined approach to assignments
- Need for repeated recognition and praise
- Demands for promotion based solely on time in the current position
- Expressed dissatisfaction with their job title
- Compulsive use of social media on the job
- Lack of emotional intelligence with their supervisor and coworkers
- Narrow view of the impact and implications of ideas/decisions
- Poor judgment and lack of sensitivity when communicating
- Weak understanding of the business model and their role in it
We’ve all had career “don’t get it” moments. If we were lucky, we had family, friends, great bosses, colleagues, and mentors within reach to straighten us out.
That’s what supervisors need to be–teachers who will level with employees, help them retool their perspectives, and provide a better course of action to take.
I agree this can be icky. I’ve had my share of employees and clients who didn’t want to hear what I had to say, but I kept saying it until the day it registered. That day made all the frustrating ones worth it.
We often can’t save ourselves from ourselves until someone throws us a life preserver. Let that be you.
Photo from noelle-christine-images via Flickr