A Conversation with the Mediocre Employee Has Yet Another Excuse

By | November 10, 2014

Kool Derby

One of the most difficult aspects of managing is working with employees who have an arsenal of excuses for why the work is failing to get done. Most people are used to hearing, and perhaps using, the normal excuses for failing to do the work assigned.

While one excuse here and there is acceptable, a few are not. Part of becoming a reputable employee is doing the work assigned even when obstacles intervene. The fact that someone fails to provide him with information to complete his report is not a legitimate excuse. He needs to get that information, even if it means asking his manager to intervene.

Andrea, Director of Marketing for Dyno Systems, is working with her team to prepare a market research report pertaining to the viability of expanding operations to Shanghai, China. The company is well known in North America for an inventory management solution that integrates point-of-sale transactions to available product warehouses in distribution centers (DCs). Dyno Systems currently targets major supermarket chains.

Andrea has tasked Melinda with an important data collection exercise, which must be completed before the analysis is performed.

Andrea: Good morning, Melinda. I hope your Wednesday is coming along well.

Melinda: Not so good, Andrea.

Andrea: What’s the issue?

Melinda: It has been difficult getting any information regarding the supermarket industry in China.

Andrea: What is your approach? Who have you contacted?

Melinda: I emailed Michael at Corporate, and asked if he had any information I could use.

Andrea: What else did you do?

Melinda: I only received the assignment a week ago. I tried Michael several days ago. I’ve been waiting for him to reply.

Andrea: Did you think about calling him?

Melinda: Since he didn’t reply, I figured he was busy. I didn’t want to bother him.

Andrea: Melinda, this is critical work. We cannot move forward without the industry-specific information that’s on your plate.

Melinda: After our meeting, I can do a few web searches to see what I can find. It might be better if I start this afternoon, since it’s so close to lunchtime.

Andrea: Let’s do this: Please schedule a conference call with Michael for today. Before the day is over, let’s get together with Samuel. I mentioned to you during our initial meeting that he did similar work when we launched the India operation.

Melinda: I guess that will work.

Andrea: Please understand the importance of your role. Beginning today, I expect that you will keep the ball moving forward. When you experience any problems, make sure to let me know immediately.

Melinda: Sure. See you later this afternoon.

Andrea: Okay, Andrea. I’m counting on you.

Mediocre employees will often try to blame others for their ineffectiveness. They are generally poor with follow-up. Email is a tool used by low performers because it gives the appearance of real effort. In reality, though, it’s a CYA approach, and they have become skilled at using it.

Andrea immediately changed the dynamics of the discussion. Instead of thanking Melinda for reaching out to Michael, she reinforced the importance of this work, and provided time-specific responsibilities. Andrea recognized that Melinda’s work is critical to the project, and will do whatever possible to confront the issue. Once the project is delivered, Andrea can review team member performance, and take appropriate action.

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