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A cool way I dealt with an employee’s performance challenge

By Darryl Stewart, Head of the Herd

I once had a front line manager who had messed up bad.  She had alienated one of her staff members in a way that I did not agree with.  I had managed the same staff member myself for years and I knew the issue was all on the manager, not the staff person.

At the same time, I respected where the manager was coming from.  She was really trying hard and her intentions were good.  It was her methods that needed to change.

I told her we would meet first thing the next morning on the issue.

IdeaWhen we met the next morning she looked terrible.  Stress, fear and maybe a bit of anger were written all over her face.  I was not proud of making her feel this way, but I needed to deal with this serious problem.

What came next was something I had never tried before, something that literally shocked her.  I had bought her a copy of a management book that I truly love and that I thought she could really benefit from.  I told her that she would not be welcome at the office that day, but she would be working.  I told her to find a comfortable place to spend the day reading the book and I would see her tomorrow.    We discussed the work issue a bit, but mostly I talked about how this book had really helped me and that I cared about her success and thought this book could help her be more successful as a manager.

I think I dropped her off at a nearby coffee shop if my memory serves and I did not see her again until the next day.  Our relationship improved significantly after that day and she did make good strides as a manager.  Ultimately she decided not to go further in management, but instead to go back to her technical roots – a decision she seems very happy with today.   I received a thank you letter from her recently, years after this happened and I was reminded that fighting the urge to be over reactive and showing someone that you truly care about their success is a powerful way to deal with a performance issue.

The book was First Break All the Rules.  I guess in this case I did just that!