DEVELOPMENT VS. DISMISSAL
Steven Cesare, Ph.D.
A business owner from Oregon called me the other day to talk about a recent performance management issue that in and of itself was relatively benign, though as the process transpired, revealed aspects of the company culture that warrant reflective, substantive attention.
During a regular workday, a Crew Member did not complete his tasks correctly, which led to some coaching from his Crew Leader. The feedback given by the Crew Leader was specific, instructive, and timely. Feeling indignant, the Crew Member escalated the issue, and sought out the Field Supervisor and explained to him that the Crew Leader was disproportionate in how he was treated during the coaching session.
As we would predict, the Field Supervisor then naturally circled back to the Crew Leader and provided him with some feedback regarding proper coaching styles, delivery methods, and interpersonal rapport when addressing performance management issues. Despite the fact that he was surprised by the encounter and mildly annoyed at its implication, the Crew Leader accepted the feedback accordingly.
The following Tuesday, at the weekly Safety Tailgate session, the Field Supervisor addressed the issue publicly, albeit without mentioning any employees by name, to the entire Field Operations team. Upon hearing the Field Supervisor’s rendition of the event, the Crew Leader’s once mild indignation intensified to emotional combustion, leading to him making some colorful commentary and storming out of the meeting.
As we would predict, the Field Supervisor then naturally circled back to the Crew Leader to address the situation further, explaining his singular intent was to educate the entire Field Operations team on how to deliver, receive, and act upon corrective feedback as a method for improving working relations, communication, and job performance.
The Crew Leader had a slightly different interpretation of the Safety Tailgate session. He claimed that he believed the Field Supervisor “threw him under the bus” in front of everyone, by essentially taking the side of the Crew Member, when all things being considered, the Field Supervisor should have instinctively supported the Crew Leader by having the Crew Leader’s back in such a public forum.
Now the interesting part.
During that conversation, the Crew Leader then told the Field Supervisor that the Crew Leader knew this was a subtle and significant event by the Field Supervisor to get performance documentation on the Crew Leader leading to the inevitable dismissal of the Crew Leader.
As I explained to the business owner, he must immediately engage in a series of team meetings with the Field Operations staff to re-establish a results-based team-oriented company culture, built upon employee development not motivated by employee dismissal. Let’s be clear: All feedback, coaching, and discipline have one purpose, to improve employee job performance. That’s the only goal. Employee dismissal is not the subliminal end game. Crew Members, Crew Leaders, and Field Supervisors must know that.
Whether it begins in the company’s New Employee Orientation Program, is reinforced in supervisory skills training, or becomes memorialized as examples of Success Behaviors in the company’s Core Values, all employees must be assured the company is committed to developing employees’ skills to achieve business goals, not as part of some master plan inexorably fixated on employee dismissal.
This will take some time.
How would you do it in your organization?
Oh, that’s right. Your employees already know this don’t they?
Watch out! Did you just see that bus drive by?
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