My daughter and I were talking in the front room this weekend. I don’t remember what we were talking about because when I turned to face her I caught a glimpse of an elderly woman through the window. At first I thought she had dropped something in the snow, and I was ready to go help her find whatever it was she lost. Then my eyes saw things a little more clearly. She wasn’t trying to pick something up; she was pushing a little snow on top of a fresh, steaming pile of crap her dog just launched on my sidewalk.
Me: “Old bag…”
Alana (following my gaze): “Daaa-aaa-aaad!”
Me: “I’m saying that I’m surprised that lady doesn’t carry an old bag to pick up her dog crap…”
I was frustrated because I knew it was very likely that either my kids or I would step in it, and then we’d track it everywhere. Ever get dog crap in the treads of your shoe? When that happens, it’s time to get new shoes.
This happens in the office when managers aren’t comfortable dealing with difficult employees. When employee performance or behavior is below threshold, managers must coach. Effective coaching around serious performance or attitudinal deficits should result in one of two things: steady performance improvement or termination. When a manager does nothing, the problem doesn’t correct itself. Ignoring the employee doesn’t work. Nor does yelling. Ditto for trying to make the employee feel uncomfortable enough to voluntarily leave (fat chance).
And one of the worst things a manager can do for the health of the organization is to do what that lady did on my sidewalk: hide it. Managers do this by transferring the employee elsewhere in the company.
I don’t blame the dog for taking a dump on my property. I blame the owner for not cleaning it up. Likewise, when I see an employee with a poor work ethic or a rotten attitude, I don’t blame the employee. I blame the manager who didn’t coach that employee to improve or coach that employee out the door. And I really blame managers who move unrepentant stinkers into other departments when stinkers should be wrapped in an old bag and thrown in the dumpster.
Do you know a manager who’s not dealing with a stinker? Print this, wrap it in a plastic bag, and place it on his chair.