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Dealing with Employees/dealing with senior supervisor

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Hi Alice

I would like to seek ur opinion and suggestion how to deal with one of my subordinate. I'm a Head of Finance and accounting department and there are 48 staff in my department. I have 3 supervisor direct report to me and each one of them handle different tasks and clearly separate. In fact,  I just joined this company 2 months ago, in December 2015. Among these supervisors, there is one who is 53 year old lady and waiting for retirement that I saw she does not really commit to her jobs. I'm not the only one who noticed that she doesn't do much at anything, during the day what she does is forwarding email, answer the call which she told me, other department need her help. However her subordinate told me most of the answer is not really correct and all the reports come from her subordinates. But she always stay late and look like she is busy.

There is one incident that just happened recently. I have asked her to collect some data for expenses analysis, she spent 3 days doing the analysis which is just comparing last year expensive and budget this year (this is very basic).   But she couldn't get it done completely nor correctly. I'm surprised that in fact it was her staff doing the report. So on the 3rd, I asked her to revise the report and split one part to her staff and one part for her to do it. And I already emphasize that this report is urgent.  One hour later, her staff finished the part. But old lady supervisor hasn't even started to do it. So I have to do it with her staff for her part.

I have later talked to her and she said she has other urgent things came up. I asked her to tell me what are those other things and we agreed that those can wait and she admitted that she didn't want to do it.

Her poor performance has been in the eyes of my boss, even before I joined the company. My boss and HR expect some changes because we can't keep someone till her retirement and does nothing while others, like me,  has load job to do.

I really don't know what to do with her. If it's getting worse probably I have terminate her by end of this year.
But I want to try if there is anyelse I can do.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon. And thank you so much for ur time.

Regards,
Warinee

Answer
Hi Warinee,

It is tough being a new manager and having to deal with an employee who is under-performing on her job.  It would appear this has been true of her performance for some time, that her employees are aware of it, and previous managers have done little to correct the issue.  My guess is that this employee has been allowed to slide, and there's been few, if any, conversations between her and managers about performance issues.  So, since she's been allowed to under perform without consequence, she's doing exactly what's expected.  Basic psychological principle:  behavior that's rewarded tends to be continued.  Continue to pay her for not doing her job, and she will continue to perform below standard.

From what you described happened when you recently gave her an assignment involving data collection, it sounds like she doesn't know or understand how to do this task. This suggests the employee doesn't have the skills to do the job and needs training to assist her to do her job better.  To determine if this is true, ask the employee to tell you the steps involved in doing the task you assigned.  If she doesn't know them, there's a need for training and skill development.  If she is able to describe the steps, she has the skills necessary to do the job but lacks motivation to do her job.          

There is a 4-step progressive discipline process that generally is effective in dealing with workplace issues that are NOT related to lack of training or need for skill development. The four steps are (1) verbal counseling or verbal warning (2) written counseling or written warning, (3) work improvement plan (4) suspension or termination.

Before taking any action, meet with your boss and HR personnel.  Discuss this employee at length.  Find out how long she has been under performing, what training she has received, what interventions have been tried, etwhat worked/didn't work.  If they are looking for changes and thinking about termination, you will need history on this employee to help you decide whether she needs additional training and skill development or implementation of the 4-step discipline process.  Either way, it will take time and lots of effort on your part to get the employee up to par or to begin the termination process.  Both will require lots of follow up meetings and thorough documentation of everything you do.

Take care.  I wish you well.

Alice J. Bogert  

Dealing with Employees

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Alice Bogert

Expertise

Today's workplace is filled with many issues that impact employee performance and add to workplace stress. I have many years experience supervising employees and can field questions for both management staff and non-management staff related to employee conflicts, employee-boss issues, time management, negotiation skills, preparing employee performance evaluations, developing resources, generation X and Y issues, and cultural diversity.

Experience

I am a retired law enforcement officer, and I teach training classes around the country for law enforcement. I am also a consultant/trainer to private industry teaching numerous management development and supervisory courses. I teach report writing at a local junior college where I am an adjunct faculty member. I've also worked as a substitute teacher for grades K-12 and private tutor. I've been a facilitator for Volunteers in Victim Assistance, helping citizens/employees deal with community or work related traumas, and I've worked with abused and neglected children.

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