I went on vacation for 2 weeks and actually ended up in an accident so I wasn't able to check on my BlackBerry and notebook and be the workaholic manager I usually am. 

There was at least one crisis and a direct who earned the wrath of my manager including poor service to our business partners, inaccurate reports, inability to control a crisis and when my manager asked for periodic updates on the crisis, she skipped out on work and/or did not give a timely updates.  This is not the first time she has caught the spotlight of my manager.

My manager has told me on my first day back that I have 20 days to prove that this direct is worth keeping.  If not, she posits I should terminate her at the end of the year.  20 days, by the way, is when my manager will finalize her 2010 planning to her boss including staffing budget. 

This direct, we'll call her Jennifer, is in severe need of coaching.  We work in IT.  I inherited this direct.  I've rotated her between business analysis, testing and now development.  She hasn't done well in the first two.  Her documentation skills are poor and her testing was not rigorous and partly caused the crisis.  The bad service is part of her personality and I've given her corrective (but not systemic) feedback about it at least once a month.  Jennifer has cried at least once from corrective feedback in an O3.  The other team members are starting to give up working with her.  She is a very typical I and tends to leave things to the very end or at least say everything is on track and then at the last moment have something fail. 

The good thing is Jennifer has a positive attitude about change.  She recognizes her shortcomings but she is getting very defensive about her work these days.  My manager thinks I would "have to be superman" to enable her to become more effective. 

My main question is what the hell should I do?  My manager has asked me to convince her in the next 20 days that my direct is worth keeping.  There's obviously no amount of coaching that can be done in 3 weeks to help with that. 




jhack's picture
twinsen's picture

Yes - I've listened to those and successfully used it on someone over a 6 month period.  Just not sure how this can be done in a 3 week period given by my manager. 

The last person I terminated on my own terms - I gave the "you have to do x y or z or you're out the door" speech.  And they didn't do it so it was justified.  This time, it's heavily influenced from my manager.  I feel there could be some way to enable Jennifer to be productive.  It would likely take another 8-12 months.


L2LEADERSW's picture

Why are you protecting your report? You've moved her 3+ times in the organization to keep her around, and she continues to do shoddy work. This reflects on you at this point. I appreciate that no-one wants to end someone's livelihood, but YOU deserve to have someone in that role who you don't have to be cleaning up after constantly. 

One of my favorite sayings in situations that require is "We don't have time for evolution. I need Revolution". It's cheesy, but it gets the point across. I would tell Jennifer something similar to the truth. "I wasn't here to buffer you during the crisis, and frankly I think it's a good thing. We have to see an immediate change in the way you communicate and respond to requests. We're out of time to 'work on it'. If you're not comfortable making that kind of change, we need to realistically look at whether this is the best place for you."

Too Harsh?

RichRuh's picture

I agree with L2LEADERSW.

At this point, you need to work with your manager to define a set of goals that Jennifer needs to accomplish in the next 20 days.  If she makes significant progress during that period, you can justify to your manager to take a longer-term view and follow the MT coaching models.


MsManager's picture

I went through a similar situation with my manager and my direct recently.  I did a lot of traveling about 6 months ago and my manager had a similar opinion to yours when I got back.  At first I was defensive of my direct and made excuses for him and eventually got my manager to back off somewhat.  After a month or so, I came to see what my manager was talking about and that this person just was not pulling his weight and was not performing to expectations and took the necessary actions to put him on an improvement plan.  This person still is not performing to expectations.

Although I did end up coming around eventually, one of my concerns is that my manager could hold it against me that I was unable to see it right away and I wonder what that says about my management ability.  So, my recommendation is to make sure you really know that this person has a strong chance for improvement before you defend her to your manager as you may end up losing your own credibility as well.  

In my opinion, someone who needs another 8 - 12 months to be productive is probably not an asset to your organization.  I just learned this lesson the hard way as I continued to put more and more of my time mentoring and coaching this person.  I am now at the point where much of my own work has gotten behind due to the amount of time that has been given to working with this person and now monitoring how he is working against the improvement plan as well as correcting his mistakes and cleaning up after problems he has created.



twinsen's picture

These are all very good points.  I took a weekend to think about this and looked back at the posts, and the solution seems so obvious.

It's probably bad that I can already predict the goals we set out for Jennifer in last week's O3 are going to be missed but such is the nature of systemic poor performance.

MsManager:  I found it far more rewarding to work with my top performers.  Before coming to MT, I was always spending the majority of my time with the laggards but 30 minutes with a top performer is equivalent to spending a whole day on and off with a poor one.  Your story mirrors mine, I am basically cleaning up and hoping for improvement for my direct.