Ok, so first question as a soon to be new manager....

How do I deliever feedback on the following without feeling awkward?

There is a guy on my team who disappears every hour or so for a ten minute cigarette break, he is a top performer so that is not a question, what is a problem is the effect on the team. Problem is I have mentioned this a couple of times to our line manager but nothing has been done about it. Can i run the following past you to get it critqued?

Stage 1 - Hi, do you mind if i give you some feedback?
Stage 2 - [obviously response dependant] When you choose to take extra breaks,
Stage 3 - The team feels as though you are letting them down, it takes us longer to reach our sales targets, it disrupts the work flow, we feel as though you are getting special treatment just because you smoke... etc
Stage 4 - What are you going to do about it?

Wow harder than i thought! the problem is i don't want to personalise it but as i am a memeber of the team it feels as though i am, I get the theory behind the model but am a novice at applying it.

All suggestions greatly welcome!

MsSunshine's picture

Bottom Line: This is not a model for feedback to a peer. Figure out what the true problem is. Then go to your boss with that problem. One of my favorite phrases is "Be too busy improving yourself to worry about improving others".

Your #3 really worries me. What is it that really bothers people if you say he is a top performer? From your posting, I can't tell if this person is actually meeting their deadlines/objectives or not. If they aren't, then how does your team currently self-monitor itself? Do you have open/honest discussions at team meetings? If you do, then when the team is talking about why it isn't meeting objectives, you could simply have an honest but respectful conversation about this.

If he is meeting his deadlines/objectives, I'd explore more what the problem is. Is it that they aren't available at a time when someone needs them? Is it that everyone else is delivering more? How does he disrupt the work flow?

Personally, I'd be very careful in monitoring someone else's work habits. Does everyone else on the team spend 0 minutes an hour doing something not work related? Do you want your boss to measure that? I'd want my boss looking at my productivity and meeting deadlines.

I have one smoker on my team and he does take breaks. It's much more obvious as he stands outside. But another person has a person from another team stop in for a chat every day. Another person gets some personal phone calls (I know because they aren't speaking English). Another person likes do the the crossword first thing in the morning. But they all get their work done to some aggressive schedules, step up when I ask, are growing in their skills every year, etc. So, I let each have their pleasures. But I expect those to take a sideline when we need to meet, are really pushed, etc.

anthony_d's picture

I guess you're right and thank you for pointing that out to me before I waded in all guns blazing and made a prat of myself.

Perhaps I am looking to give "feedback" out of jealousy - I notice him going out to smoke and I notice me getting feedback for even daring to do a non-related work task (even though the way the feedback is given leads a lot to be desired! - And yes I have pointed out the MT podcast so maybe it'll improve over time).

What I don't notice is him getting a similar amount of feedback for slacking off.

Perhaps he does, perhaps he doesn't.

When I said he is a top performer I meant that, as a team, we are all very high performing and I am proud to be a part of that. The managerial style could do with a little work but we don't let that hamper us. (and is not the subject at hand!)

I am not being asked to be treated equally within the team but I wouldn't mind seeing a little more fairness.

As an aside I know that that being treated equally is neither constructive or useful as everyone's needs and motivations are different, and, as a managerial trainee, I expect to be pushed harder and faster than the others.....

I've just realised I am grumbling, probably because I am not yet a manager, feel frustrated by the slack some people are being cut and the inefficancy and wasted time that is going on currently. - as another aside i know that most people can't be on the job every second that they are at their desk.

I also feel frustrated that I don't have the experience or authority to have an impact on either the guy or my manager. But by complaining I am not helping either the rest of the guys I work for/with, the company or myself.

By letting this small thing get to me it is affecting my effectiveness (hope i got that the right way round!) within the team.

Rant over thanks for bearing with it!

Aside from grinning and bearing with it (and learning from mistakes being made) is there anything I can do before I do or say something that I may later regret?

jhack's picture

I've found that frequent smoke breaks do bother a number of folks, and can have a deleterious effect on other people's performance. (Believe me, folks do the math: 10 minutes per hour, eight hours per day....almost an extra hour and a half of breaks! How is that fair?! How about I take a Fresh Air break for 10 minutes every hour, huh?)

There is a model for peer feedback:

If no one were bothered, it wouldn't be an issue. But obviously at least you are, so maybe others are.

MsSunshine asks the key question: why does this matter? Why does it bother you? Isn't performance, not hours clocked, what really matters?


anthony_d's picture

thanks I am listening to it now, that cast was released the WEEK before i joined!

mjpeterson's picture

Here is another way to think about on this topic.

Are you doing knowledge work? If you are, are you only productive while you are working at your desk? Probably not. Are you salaried? If so, you are being paid to complete your work, not sit at your desk for a certain period of time. When you’re the manager, who do you promote, the lady taking smoke breaks, who gets all her work done on time, or the guy who diligently sits at his desk and does not? Clearly, the person who gets the work done, gets the promotion.

Another question, is he a person who is very particular about starting work exactly the start of work and finishing exactly at the “end” of his day, or does he start early and work late. I was once told that a co-worker had complained that I was taking too long a break during the work day. During this time I was routinely working 7 am – 7 pm. The person who complained worked from exactly 7:00 am to 4:00 pm, and took an hour lunch. Everyday without fail he was gone at 4:01. Needless to say, his complaints were ignored and he was told to mind his own business.

kklogic's picture

I have a funny aside re: smoke breaks. There were three of us managers who smoked as of two years ago. We have all since quit - and our communication has suffered wildly.

During these smoke breaks, we talked shop the entire time. We were aware of what the other was looking for from us and we also knew what they were working on and how it affected us.

We still haven't figured out a way to replace that sort of communication and it's hurt our company more than I can relate here.

I thought it might be a story that shows you that sometimes you don't have enough facts to judge a situation :)

P.S. Anyone remember the Friends episode where Rachel takes up smoking for this very reason?

US41's picture

[quote]as a soon to be new manager[/quote]

Dude - don't do it. New managers don't give adjusting feedback. New managers observe, take it all in, meet everyone, and fit in. Start O3's immediately after taking office. After 30 days, you can give your first feedback - and make it positive feedback - not negative. After 60 days, give your first adjusting feedback, but also give lots of positive feedback.

You do not call out a new report for a showdown unless they are being blatantly insubordinate and require extreme measures to corral them.

As far as the breaks go - set your team's objectives and measure performance. Do your O3's, give feedback, coach, delegate, etc... Everything in the podcasts. If he performs, let him smoke. If he is behind, then measure his performance and ask him if he thinks 1.5 hours of smoking breaks per day are harming his productivity. Measure to performance and results, not the clock.

If you are not the boss, then mind your own business. He is not yours to manage.

[quote]We still haven't figured out a way to replace that sort of communication and it's hurt our company more than I can relate here. [/quote]

Still take the breaks. Just don't smoke. Set up a standing daily meeting just like in the book Death by Meeting where the three of you stand out on the porch and drink Aquafina or something for 15 mins a day every day.

kklogic's picture

Hmm.... that gives me some food for thought. We did try and schedule a weekly meeting we called "Smoke Break," but it wasn't doing it. This might be difficult to pull off, but I'm going to think about how I can do it. Thanks.