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Man up and do your Job!

There are few things I find as frustrating as managers who like to push off the difficult elements of their job onto HR. You know, like when it comes time to talk to an employee about their poor performance or to deal with some interpersonal conflicts that are going on inside their department. Funny how when raises, etc. are doled out managers have no problem having those conversations but when it is something that is not so nice it is suddenly HR’s job. The way I see it is that it is your employee and more often than not, the reason the “problem” exists in the first place is because the manager has let something fester in the hope that it would go away. When it doesn’t, they appear at HR asking them to “just deal with it.” To which I am more than happy to either:

a) Provide that manager with some exceptional, well thought out coaching. I will give them advice, tips and knowledge on how to properly get to the root cause issue, focus on the issue not the person and come to a sensible resolution

b) Or, I will deal with the issue as long as I get to give all the good news to their staff as well.

Man PointingSo now that you know my stance on the issue, you will know why in this next little story I got so upset. (The industry and titles have been changed to protect the innocent; however the story remains the same) A few weeks back, a former colleague of mine who is now working in the “Tech” industry in Ontario phoned me for a bit of advice. They said that a “Sr. VP of Operations” at their company had approached her and indicated that they were not happy with the performance of one of their “Sr. Project Managers.” The Sr. V.P. indicated that this had been an ongoing issue for some time. Therefore, they wanted the HR Manager to look for a replacement for this person. Once they found someone they would let the Sr. Project Manager go. Now I ask you, how stinky is that? What kind of company takes that approach? Unfortunately, as I have come to find out, far too many. I mean really, the person isn’t good enough to stay in the job long term but they are good enough as a stop gap until we find someone better?

I asked my friend, “What is in the Sr. Project Manager’ file? What discussions have taken place with him? What have his performance review ratings indicated? Is he even aware his performance isn’t acceptable?” As good HR professionals I am sure you know how the answers to these questions went:

a) Nothing
b) None
c) Acceptable Performance
d) No

Shocker, huh? I am sure you have all seen this before, so why is it so hard for the manager to have these candid conversations with their staff. I understand that no one likes conflict and that it is uncomfortable, etc. But as a manager, it is YOUR JOB. It is why you get paid more than your staff. It is not anyone else’s job. It sure isn’t HR’s job to have this conversation. It is YOUR JOB. So start having the difficult conversations. HR is there to give you advice and support you but YOU have to meet with the employee. HR isn’t there to run some clandestine recruiting operation to find a replacement for your problem employee. If you don’t want to have these conversations with staff, than the solution is to resign as a manager and go back to being line staff. As I indicated before, there isn’t much that really winds me up more than this tactic of not dealing with the employee issue and then wanting HR to find a replacement so we can fire someone.

Oh yeah, my friend in question – she went back to the VP Operations and indicated that she would be happy to look for a replacement assuming that the coaching he had been doing and performance management tactics weren’t working. (Silence). She then indicated that we could pay the Sr. Project Manager a severance package (would work out to be around $20K) and begin recruiting immediately. Last I heard the V.P. was trying to man up to figure out how he was going to have a talk with the Sr. Project Manager about his performance…….My fingers are crossed that this is actually what will happen.

Image courtesy of stock images/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net


5 Responses

  1. This is all too true! And too frequent.

  2. To add another piece to this; my experience has also been that it’s HR’s fault when the people that are hired don’t work out. I know I tried (many times) to tell managers not to hire just to fill the seat – it’s never worked – they move forward with a hire than none of them feels is the best fit because they don’t want the chair empty. From reading what you’ve written, and based on my experience, it seems that human nature is such that we will take what appears to the be the quickest and easiest way through problems. Very few of us will actually take the time to put all the steps in place up front (training managers in effective performance management is just one of those areas). Conflict doesn’t have to be uncomfortable and your advice to your friend was good. The VP deserved the chance to know what areas required improvement – I haven’t met anyone in my lifetime that can read minds…

    Thanks for the post!

    • Kellie – couldn’t agree more with you about the bums in seats approach. In fact, I absolutely cringe whenever I even hear a manager say that. I think part of our challenge is the continued education of hiring managers around the cost (time) of doing quality up front hire vs getting someone in who do the job who may or may not work out long term. Thanks for commenting.

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