I've been a manager since last July, have 4 directs. I set up monthly 1-on-1's last Oct, now after listening to these podcasts, I'm changing them all to weekly. I've recently listened to many of the Feedback podcasts. One direct missed my monthly Feb meeting, I let it go. He blatantly missed our March meeting and was gone all afternoon without telling me. I sat down and said he can't miss meetings with me anymore, and needs to let me know when he's going to be gone from work for half a day. Then I was getting feedback from coworkers about him for review time, and 5 people said "He's hard to find during the day", and that they have trouble getting information since they need to get his inputs. Some even said "the cell phone doesn't work". I've since mentioned this, and he says "tell them to call my cell". A few weeks ago I recommended leaving a note when he's going to be gone, so now sometimes there's a note saying "Lunch 2-3PM", and last week he never once came back when the note said so, and he was gone around 3 hours when the note said only one. (He claims to work late hours when no one is there.) Also last week, he didn't respond to a coworker calling him two different days on his cell, and he missed my 1-on-1 last Tuesday morning at 9:30 AM, since he came in at 10 AM. I called his cell at 9:35 AM and had to leave a message. He showed up at 10AM and when I found him just after 10, and said "you missed our meeting", he said he was all worried about his PC that it had a virus, and needed to be with IT all morning (not addressing the fact he missed our meeting). I did meet with him in the afternoon, but don't feel like I addressed the issue well enough. I have a meeting this Tuesday, and need advice on what to do now!!

US101's picture
Licensee Badge

Sounds like you've given feedback a few times. I suggest moving to 'Systemic Feedback', see the Late Stage Coaching podcasts.

For example, "I've given you feedback several times about missing meetings, and not returning your co-workers phone calls. I'm concerned we might have a bigger issue on our hands. What can you do differently?"

Your feedback is about his inability or unwillingness to change. You're not going to formal disciplinary yet.

terrih's picture

Not coming back from lunch when you say you're going to is, in HR parlance, a "no call no show" and equals an unexcused absence. (Had a direct who did that a couple of times... he's now unemployed, not just for that but because his attendance issues kept getting worse from there)

Even if he IS working late (which it sounds like you doubt), what good is that if his coworkers need to communicate with him in order to get their work done?

US101's advice is good... and take this VERY seriously. This is only going to get worse if you don't persuade him of the error of his ways.

egmc's picture

Thanks for the good inputs! I had my 1-on-1 with him this morning. I did try more feedback, and said that last week he missed 3 phone calls and that was his preferred method of communicating with him and it's not seeming to be working, so what can you do differently? He said that he leaves the volume down sometimes. I kept getting back to the point of what can you do differently, and he said he'll try to answer the calls from now on. I also mentioned that the coworker couldn't locate him for several hours. Then he made up that he really was at work at 3 PM that day, and the note from the coworker wasn't signed, so he didn't know who had left it. My notes from that day say he didn't come back to work until 5 PM, so I know he was not truthful with me today, but I didn't feel I could accuse him of lying right then. He didn't like the fact I was taking notes. Amazingly he was at work all afternoon today though, so I guess that's progress for now. I think he'd been getting away with this behavior for years before I became his supervisor last year, so he's not so happy with me calling him on it now!

tcomeau's picture
Training Badge

[quote="egmc"]... Amazingly he was at work all afternoon today though, so I guess that's progress for now. [/quote]

Hey, that's great: Immediate impact. Did you offer affirming feedback? (...when you're where we can find you, we can get info from you, ... Thanks, and please keep it up!)

He will "backslide" so be prepared to offer more adjusting feedback, and be ready to pounce on chances to offer affirming feedback. It sounds like you have another person who is a victim of bad management, so you have extra work to do. But you've doing the right thing. Keep it up!


HMac's picture

[quote="egmc"]I kept getting back to the point of what can you do differently, and he said he'll try to answer the calls from now on.[/quote]

egmc: you're moving carefully here, and that's great. And it's good the employee was at work for the entire afternoon following your feedback.

His response that he'd "try" to answer calls reminded me of a point Mark has made several times on podcasts - that [i]trying[/i] something is not the same as [i]doing [/i]something. As you do more feedback in the future, if you get the "I'll try" response, you might want to ask some follow up questions that lead to talking about specific actions.

After all, the feedback model has you asking "What can you [i]do [/i]differently?" not "What can you [i]try [/i]differently?"

Good luck - keep up the good MT work!


thaGUma's picture

I totally agree with Hugh, the careful attitude will help. If your direct is used to this pretty dismal state of affairs then it would be a shock if you suddenly ‘changed’ his job description to include more normal work.

Keep plugging at the obvious, you appear to be getting excuses in response – this is OK if the behaviors shift a little.

Good luck – this sounds like a great accomplishment for your CV.

US41's picture

My advice will be more blunt than the others, I'm afraid. However, I only post it to help you improve as a manager. I will write to you what I would say to a manager who works for me in the same situation.

When you tell me the above, then I draw the conclusion that you have not been giving feedback effectively, and frankly you are letting this useless fop walk all over you, wasting my money, demoralizing my team, wasting your time that I need for other things, and compromising everything he is responsible for. I feel exposed, unprotected, vulnerable, and disappointed, because I expect my managers to cover my six.

* You have not used the feedback model
* You have been coddling his odd hours
* You have allowed someone you do not trust to engage in behaviors which require your trust before you approve them
* You have allowed these things to happen multiple times.

If you had been doing your job right up to this point, this guy would now be fired. But you haven't, so now you have to go slow.

I suggest:

* Start giving immediate confrontational feedback every time he does *anything* other than arriving before 9am and leaving after 5pm with a max. 59 hour lunch. "When you eat lunch except between noon and one, I get the impression you are going shopping or doing other things. What are you going to do differently tomorrow and going forward?"

* Use feedback to put boundaries around unacceptable behaviors:
- going to lunch at odd hours
- justifying due to working late
- not answering his cell phone
- not returning phone calls within 1 hour
- not at his desk

* After you give feedback that he doesn't follow even ONE TIME, give feedback like this: "When you commit to change your behavior, and then you do not, I start thinking that it is time we considered the possibility that this is not going to work out. What can you do differently next time?"

* The third time he does not respond to any feedback (do not compartmentalize these feedbacks by topic like you have to have three bad per topic to go to unhappy mode), forget about feedback. Go straight to counseling. Make a bulleted list of his sins, dates, times, complaints, unhappy customers, and what his objectives are to meet to turn things around with a timeline. Take it to HR, and tell them you are going to set a timeline for turnaround and show them O3 forms with feedback postits on them. Then sit down with him with a witness who will not over-rule or undermine you, and tell him very, very directly:

[i]We have to discuss your performance, because I find it unacceptable, and I think you can do much better. I've noted the following behaviors .... these behaviors must come to an end immediately and be replaced by new behaviors. I want you to do the following (hand him written MT objectives for new behaviors with a timeline - no more than 30 days in your case): If you fail to accomplish these objectives or if at any time during the next 30 days I sense you are not accomplishing them, you're finished. Do you understand? Will you commit to changing your behavior?"
I hate to say this to you, but if you don't have the guts to have this harsh conversation, management is not your bag. Every employee deserves to be told in no uncertain terms that his current behavior is terminal and how long he has to change.

I'm sorry my response reads so harshly. However, I've found that sometimes people really need this sort of guidance and cold water thrown on them when they are in this sort of situation. There is a lot of fear in all of us about confronting people we don't trust, and denial is a powerful, powerful thing.

Your employee needs the same. He needs a psychological slap across the face. He needs it now. He's daring you to fire him and doesn't believe you have the courage to do it. Show him you do. Your other directs will thank you for it.

thaGUma's picture

US41 – don’t be so mean. I have been assuming that the direct has been there a lot longer than last July when Egmc took over, therefore he needs to correct the employee’s view of what is acceptable behaviour as it has been tacitly accepted historically by the company though inaction.

Just think how smoking breaks were once considered to be a worker’s ‘right’.


US41's picture

[quote="donnachie"]US41 – don’t be so mean.[/quote]

Mean is a conclusion. "Stop being mean" is not a behavior - it is an emotion you are feeling. I can't change you feeling that I am mean. I can change a specific behavior. When you give feedback (this is not feedback and neither was your message), ensure you cite a behavior - not a conclusion - otherwise you will confuse others who cannot meet your expectations.

It took effort and thought to write my message, and enough caring about another anonymous person to bother to spend my very valuable time as a manager to write it. I was not being mean. Mean would be to sit back and say nothing while someone fails without offering guidance.

Here's my intention: I am holding up a mirror to egmc so that he can see how this situation looks to a high-D boss above him.

I am holding a manager accountable for his duty to hold up a mirror to his employees. If he's not giving direct feedback to them about the consequences of their behavior in real-time like breathing, they don't know where they stand.

If he's confronting them gently without using feedback and they are still engaging in the behaviors, it's his job to set a boundary with them that feedack will be followed. To fail to do so is to send the message, "Feedback around here is just my opinion." Feedback is not your boss's opinion. Feedback is what your boss wants to start, stop, or continue in your behavior. It's not an option.

If your boss makes it feel optional by being "nice" and you continue the bad behavior, he might continue to spin up negative emotions toward the direct and then ambush him with an emotional, built-up plea on behalf of humanity - or worse - his High-D boss (me?) might reach over him and eliminate the problem in one stroke by firing the errant employee, stepping down the manager, or firing the manager. :-O

This is serious stuff. There is a member of the team that the others can clearly see is a non-contributor, that customers complain about, and that appears to lack a basic work ethic. You can destroy your team by allowing someone to act like that and remain a member.

It doesn't matter how long the direct has been there - failure to adjust behavior in the face of feedback is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. If you tolerate it, you essentially nullify yourself as a manager.

I have had plenty of "nice" bosses in my career who did not confront my behavior, and left me rotting on the vine unable to succeed because they would not tell me that I was screwing up. Such people do not do you any favors. They help you to fail to grow.

EGMC: Take decisive action before it is too late and confront this direct.

tcomeau's picture
Training Badge

I'm afraid US41 is right, and I'm also guilty of being too positive in my earlier comments.

egmc's DR is the victim of poor management, both the previous manager who let him fall into these bad habits, and (to an understandable but no less important degree) egmc him(her?)self. (Uh oh, default gender issue again - can't tell from the proile!)

The bad management has to stop, just as the poor performance of this direct report has to stop. That means giving real feedback, setting boundaries on acceptable behavior and imposing consequences when those boundaries are crossed, setting measurable performance targets and insisting on that performance, and otherwise actually [u]managing[/u] this direct.

There is a nuance in the difference in tone between how US41 and me, but it is just nuance. Having been a victim of bad management, I'm inclined as a manager to believe I need to work a little harder and be a little more patient in turning poor performers around. US41 believes you need to draw a fairly bright line around basic behaviors and make it clear you'll take severe action soon if those lines are crossed. He may be right, and you shouldn't choose my tone just because it will feel easier.

You have, as I think you recognize, been failing or the past eight weeks. Since it is a problem you inherited I'm willing to cut you some slack. You should not cut yourself much slack. Tomorrow makes a week since you asked for help. I suggest that Monday the slack should be all taken up.


HMac's picture

I have had plenty of "nice" bosses in my career who did not confront my behavior, and left me rotting on the vine unable to succeed because they would not tell me that I was screwing up. Such people do not do you any favors. They help you to fail to grow.

Few things are as corrosive to an organization as "nice" bosses who don't confront bad behavior. I've been there, too - and 41's comment made me remember.

Lesson: this isn't just about you and your direct - it's a situation that's negatively affecting everyone who can see the direct's behaviors.


AManagerTool's picture

41 is my new hero. As I read his posts, the D in me began to harmonically resonate like a wine glass in front of Ella Fitzgerald...I actually started mouthing his words as I was reading them....LMAO

egmc's picture

This is great information. Thanks for the thoughtful replies. When I first read US41's answer it did seem harsh given the history, but I do agree that more should be done. That is why I am happy to get advice here and really like these podcasts.

I feel a bit handcuffed by the fact that my current manager was this DR's manager for around 5 years, and this issue most likely has been very long term, but not sufficiently addressed. I have had to convince my "nice" manager that there is a problem. The culture around here is more trusting and informal, so it has been easier to get away with this behavior. I have found it hard to find many specific faults to give feedback about (hence the subject of my initial post - so that's what I need help with), besides missing my 2 meetings and not answering his cell. Others had told me a lot of the time when they did call him he was at home in the afternoon, and said he was "running late". So until he misses another meeting or someone tells me he didn't answer their call to his cell, even if he is not at his desk, what can I say? There are no rules about when you can go to lunch or specifically when you have to be at your desk. So do I need to first convince my manager that this guy needs clearer rules and boundaries, and then implement them? I know my DR has been lying to me about where he is all afternoon, but he has never acknowledged the fact he is gone from work for more than 1 hour at his late lunch time, so according to him he is here when he should be. And like I said before at least he was at work all afternoon after I gave him that feedback on Tuesday this week, so I have seen improvement. Maybe I should ask what do I say to MY manager now?

US41's picture


Feeling handcuffed is internal to you. You are being poked by an umbrella - your response to that is your choice. Don't imagine a cage from which you cannot escape. There might not be one.

[b]Go to your boss?[/b] Do not go to your boss and ask him for permission. Asking permission is always harder and less giving than asking forgiveness. You are the boss. Be the boss. Manage your direct. Go to your boss when you are in the final stages approaching termination and no sooner. Just get going now on your own.

You don't need your boss's permission to set rules and boundaries. It is your team - you set the rules and boundaries for your directs.

[b]How to Proceed?[/b] Give feedback. Give positive feedback when he does something you like that you want to see repeated. Give him adjusting feedback when you want an unacceptable behavior stopped. Give adjusting feedback also to replace the undesirable behavior with a desired one.

Start. Stop. Continue. It's the secret to change in all things.

Your goal is not to destroy him. I was not directing you to do that. I was giving you the complete road map all the way to termination. However, throughout your experience with him, hold out hope that he will respond to the feedback and become a top performer.

The purpose of feedback is to encourage effective behavior. Two results are possible: more effective behavior or no change. If you see change, then feedback is working. Pour it on - positive and negative, and go for broke, and save this employee from himself and his previous boss for you, for your team, and for his future career. You could be the thing that turns his entire career around.

I have a manager in my past who held up the mirror to me with brutal, ruthless honesty. I dressed nicer. He gave positive feedback. I dressed more casual - adjusting feedback. I bought shiny shoes - positive feedback. I gave feedback to a peer in his presence. Positive feedback on using the model. Now I own lots of shiny shoes, lots of nice clothes, and I give feedback like a feedback machine.

I opened up more and more to my boss to get more feedback - I started to seek it out. My boss praised all of my manager tools study and book reading. We had long talks. My boss began to trust me even more. My boss and I are now peers. My boss got me promoted and handed me up to his boss.

My boss gave me the gift of holding up the mirror. I was lost in the dark. The mirror gave me a flashlight to find my way to effectiveness.

That is your job. Don't ask your boss to do it. Don't ask your boss if it is OK. Just give feedback:

* When he does something effective
* When he does something ineffective
* When someone tells you he does something ineffective and it resonates like a wine glass in front of Ella Fitzgerald
* When someone tells you he was effective

Feedback feedback feedback. All day long, hourly, by the minute. Until your head will explode give feedback.

My team at work makes me proud. They are not all high D's like me, but they perform effectively because they know, in every conversation, whether or not they are succeeding or failing. I swallow my pounding heart and I go crashing through the jungle toward them chaotically, recklessly giving feedback at every opportunity. Tens of thousands of times a year.

Your employee can be rescued. Catch him doing things right, and catch him doing things ineffectively.

The rest of my post was "What to do when feedback does not work." But you have to give the feedback first, and that means you have to get in his face and in his shorts and have knowledge of what he is doing.

What is your boss going to do to help? Just view you as confused and weak for coming to him for direction instead of acting like a leader like General Patton and plowing ahead full-speed.

You don't want your boss to think he turned around your employee do you? Just do this on your own, and let your boss grill you if someone escalates.

Listen to all of the feedback podcasts immediately. Everything I wrote here is in there.

egmc's picture


When you give me this information, it makes me see what I can do to change and improve, and I am more confident and tougher already to tackle this issue. Thank you for the detailed response.

jwyckoff's picture

41 -

I have to say - I *LOVE* your posts in this thread. I think they are some of the best I've read on the M-T forums - PERIOD. Nice work.