Hi all,

I am a new manager tools convert and a fairly new manager (about 1 year). I am rolling out the trinity as of last month starting with O3, which is going well. I am not jumping ahead to feedback and coaching yet as advised. 

My issue is with a direct who is doing good work but is seemingly not very motivated. For context, my company is small (6 of us, I am cofounder and CTO and have 3 reports) and we are a technology startup. That means it's really an all-hands-on-deck situation, since everyone is critical to success. 

This direct is a fairly senior tech person with lots of experience. He is the highest paid person in the company. He is good at what he does, but exhibits some behaviors that reflect poorly. One is generous use of our unlimited vacation policy. Another is generous use of my work-from-home policy. A third, which is less concrete, is his seeming lack of interest in the bigger picture beyond his particular work. 

As I am not rolling out feedback and coaching yet, what are some approaches I should take to guide this direct to better performance? This is somewhat critical as my CEO has doubts as to this direct's fit in the company due to these issues. 

Thanks in advance!

mrreliable's picture

Aren't employees supposed to take maximum advantage of benefits provided by their employers? Max out the employer match for 401k, use flexible scheduling to help with non-work activities, participate to the fullest in medical plans, take advantage of employer educational benefits, child care benefits?

Your company provides extremely generous benefits. Unlimited vacations? Never heard of that one before. I guess I don't understand why you would provide such a benefit, then become concerned when an employee takes advantage of it. It sounds like an employee of your company doesn't need to come to work at all if they don't feel like it.

It sounds like you're counting on the employees to police themselves regarding use of these benefits to make sure they don't abuse your generosity. The problem is that you can bet your employees will have a wildly different opinion than you of what is reasonable use of company benefits. Even among employees, when others see someone taking a lot of vacation time, they'll start feeling like stooges doing the heavy lifting at the shop while someone else is off on long road trips. I can't see unlimited vacation time working out in the long run. There's generous, then there's, what the....

On work-from-home, in order to attract the best talent we could find, we implemented a work-from-home policy. The work could be done just as well whether the employees were at our facility or at home. The problem is that the work wasn't done as well with folks working from home. They could have, they just didn't. We rescinded the policy. One of our top producers said she was glad we did. Home provided continuous distractions. She was considering abandoning the work-from-home schedule, but it was just so danged convenient. Sometimes it will work, but not always.

I'd recommend rethinking those policies. If you're concerned that an employee is abusing the open-ended policies, that couild be an indication that the policy itself is problematic, not your employee taking advantage of it.

StartupCTO's picture

Thank you for your reply! Here's the thing: I agree with you! When we decided on policies, I was against unlimited PTO and preferred a traditional PTO/sick time system, but my CEO preferred this model for various reasons and that ultimately was the way we went. Of course my original position is irrelevant and this is what I have to work with. I should also add that unlimited PTO is becoming increasingly common in the technology world in both small and large companies.

I DO believe in giving large latitude to my employees -- they are highly skilled and responsible. Typically folks conform to the norms we set.

As may be clear, my situation is one of being stuck between the perspective of my CEO -- who thinks this employee should be more seemingly "invested" in the company -- and the employee -- who is perhaps rightly making use of our policies. 

Another component of this is developing my employees for future growth. Whether his behavior is problematic or not, his perceived lack of ethic will hinder his future prospects, which is a shame. As his manager, it is my responsibility to help him in that process, right?

DJ_150's picture

Agree with mrreliable on the vacation and work from home policy issues. 

I appreciate you wanting to help your direct with career prospects and success in the organization. Can you get specific around what you want this employee to do that they are not already doing? For example, if they were  more interested in the bigger picture/more invested, they would be doing X,Y and Z.  Be in the office X days per week, respond to emails within Y hours, and participate in Z team meetings per week.  

Maybe the bad attitude podcast could apply here?


StartupCTO's picture

Thank you. I listened to the cast. As a testament to how well they present feedback, I was able to guess their suggestions from listening to the feedback casts.

Indeed, I want to change certain behaviors. The big negative ones are arriving late and working from home/remotely too much. My office is lax by most standards (again, tech startup, so it's common to have lax policies on office hours etc for a variety of reasons), but regularly arriving around 11am gives a bad impression, as does being out of the office 25% of the days, even if working.

This has to be addressed, though I am not sure how considering I am not ready to roll out feedback and coaching. I listened to "Negative Feedback Before Its Time" but, since I have not been giving feedback yet and this is critical, it seems more weighty than ordinary feedback. Am I exaggerating that? 

DJ_150's picture

Agree with you that lax standards are the issue. If 11am is too late, what time is acceptable?  How many days remote work is OK? How many hours per week are expected?

The first step may be setting your expectations on these items with the employee. It's tough to say they are in violation of something that doesn't exist or they don't know about- just my opinion. Agree on not giving negative feedback before doing this.

Don't have much experience with startups and would love to hear others' opinions/experiences.

G3's picture

StartupCTO - if a manager's doing one-on-ones, can't they raise this issue in the manager's portion of the meeting?

If he's delivering results, has so much experience, & the company values him that much (by paying him the most) then I'm wondering where the sense of urgency is coming from with the CEO. Maybe you might want to consider accelerating the rollout. Maybe the policy needs to be revisited. I don't have a silver bullet for you - just suggestions.

Congrats on finding & using MT. Keep at it & keep coming back. 

StartupCTO's picture

Thank you. Indeed I plan to bring it up in O3. 

Obviously a major issue is a disconnect in expectations between my CEO and myself, which we also need to resolve. We both agree that our employees should have significant latitude -- we just disagree on what constitutes irresponsible behavior. His argument begins with "this guy has a bad work ethic" then backs into reasons why the behavior could be damaging -- which makes me believe that the issue for my CEO is the appearance of laziness rather than the practical work product issues. That said, his opinion that this employee is too lax could be corrosive to others in the organization is possible, tho I have not seen that yet. 

Anyway, at this point I will ask the employee to arrive earlier and work from home less to start. On the flip side I need to figure out how to have a more structured conversation with my partner about policies, culture, etc. 

cruss's picture
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I appreciate that this is probably well past a time that would be a helpful reply but I do have a suggestion of how to handle this prior to rolling out Feedback. Are you clearly laying out the deliverables and deadlines that your directs are expected to meet? If so then it's much easier to have a conversation about missed deadlines and incomplete or low quality deliverables. You shouldn't have to care if they are in the office or not, on vacation or not, and late or not if they are delivering on time and at quality as expected. In fact, if they are delivering above the rate and quality of their peers then, from there perspective, why shouldn't they take more time off. And if their peers have a problem with the perception of their late arrivals and frequent absences, then just remind them how much the person in question is accomplishing. Now all that said, if this person is really delivering everything they are expected to and still have time for so much PTO, then you might consider assigning them more work or shorter deadlines to get them 'engaged' more.