Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Recently I had a BSC call me to discuss a supervisor that had been with her for about 3 years and had started as a terrific employee but in the past few months had become a real problem--missed days, forgetting to follow up, mishandling employee discipline issues, bad attitude toward the corporate staff and the list goes on. Sound familiar?

We chatted for quite a while during which I asked the standard questions like,

Death in the family?

Divorce or marital issues?

Children problems?

Financial issues?

She thought none of these issues were problems for this now difficult employee so I took the next step and asked her to do the following exercise. On the left hand side of a blank piece of paper I want you to list the qualities that made this supervisor so special in the beginning? So she started to list those good qualities such as

Always came to work with a positive attitude.

Always very punctual on all appointments

Excellent trainer.

Great grooming habits. 

Never missed a staff meeting.

Customers loved to communicate with her because they knew if they wanted something done this supervisor would get it done.

She continued the list with a few more great qualities. I then asked that on the right side of the paper she list the negative things she had mentioned to me when the conversation started such as 

Attendance issues.

Lack of follow up with employees and customers.

Attitude issues toward the staff. (How about toward the customer?)

Not training the employees properly.

Poor grooming habits.

I then asked this BSC to have a formal, scheduled meeting with the employee and review the left hand and right hand items on the paper.

I emphasized the importance of conducting the meeting with the purpose of "saving" the employee. Let's see if we can find the source of the problems and help the employee succeed in solving the problems IF WE CAN. 

I asked that she calmly list each of the positives and a corresponding negative and ask the question of why the slippage in performance in each area. I told her to use my old system of "asking why 5 times" on each of the issues. Most of the time prior to getting to the 5th why we will get the answer. Again, I reminded her to conduct the meeting in a calm demeanor with the sole purpose of saving the employee if at all possible. I think it is important to try and help employees succeed rather than play "gottcha" and have them fail. It can be a very difficult meeting to conduct but the time and dollars spent in helping what was a great employee possibly get back on track is far less than starting over and having to recruit a new employee, train them and "hope" they will succeed. 

Well, the meeting was conducted within a week after our phone conversation. The asking why 5 times worked as we found out the employees parents were now living with her and needed special attention, her daughter was soon to become an unwed mother and she too was living at home. The employee was trying to balance these issues and still take care of her job. These are all things we would not have discovered if the meeting had not taken place.

I don't know in this particular case if the employee will  "make it" or not but I do know in talking with the BSC that the employee was appreciative that she was being given a chance to resolve the concerns and that someone cared enough to discuss the issues with her. 

What about you? Do you have some employees that started great and have gone down hill after a period of time? Why not try the exercise of listing the good qualities that made the employee so valuable and then list the concerns and then discuss them to see if they can be resolved. 

Not every employee is going to want to discuss the issues that are causing them to perform poorly and that is okay. You then have to make the decision of whether you want to keep them on the payroll.   

Let me make one thing clear. I don't think you can do this with every employee if you are a larger company but I do think it is worth the effort with KEY PEOPLE if you are prepared to conduct a meeting with them in a calm manner and not a finger pointing session. I also know that there are BSCs that will take issue with trying this approach in the first place and that's fine. I only offer it as one possible solution to saving an employee that has given good service in the past and may be worth trying to help. Everybody has to make that decision for themselves.

Another thing to keep in mind. If the employee behaves badly in the meeting you may have the answer as to what you need to do. Maybe they should not be employed any longer and you may have to take them to lunch and buy there's to go. At least you have given them a choice and you'll feel better about it. 

So, how about it? Give it a try for those key staff members you feel are worth keeping and proved it in the past. 

Don't forget to tune into our weekly pod cast at We have some great guests scheduled in the weeks ahead on subjects such as telemarketing, day cleaning, green cleaning, sustainability, franchising, using digital devices, human resource management, mergers and acquisitions and more. The pod casts are free and who knows, there may be something that helps you in your business or personal life.  

Till next time.