January 28, 2015

Accepted Behavior

8:13 Tuesday morning

Glen is late again for the weekly sales meeting. It’s the third week in a row. He says there’s a lot going on in the morning with day care and school buses and making lunches for the kids and traffic. So the sales manager surveys the team and discovers four other members are dealing with similar issues. She carefully asks the entire team – so to not hinder those who don’t have kids – whether it would help if the meeting was moved to 8:30. Everyone agrees.

8:42 Tuesday morning – four weeks later

Glen is late for the third time. What would you do as sales manager? Most fall into two categories – yell at Glen or ignore it and hope it goes away. Neither is wise. People have kids, families, life outside of work as they should, but the sales meeting is 8:30 Tuesday mornings – moved because Glen couldn't make it for the original 8am time – and if everyone else can make it, so can Glen. There will always be exceptions, but the sales manager and Glen should deal with it and not inconvenience the team again. Or Glen may need to have his future freed up to find somewhere else to meet.

I was speaking with a colleague this week about deadlines. She says a member of her team is habitually late on projects. I asked for clarification whether it was every deadline and she said yes. Every time her colleague is given a target, she misses it.

Several Options

First, you could fire her, which is a bit rash. Second, you could create fake deadlines that are ahead of the real ones so the rest of the team isn't negatively affected by the person who is always late, which is a bit ridiculous. Third, talk to her and tell her if she is late again, refer to the first option. Or fourth, dig deeper on why she’s late – what is the deep rooted reason for this behavior?

It’s easy to say she doesn't respect the fact she’s holding everyone up by being late, but there could very well be a deeper issue here. One thought, she may have never been reprimanded for missing deadlines so her motivation isn't there. It's hard to believe she simply doesn't respect the rest of the team but that can't be ruled out either. Or she may think deadlines are for others and not her.

Two Perpetrators

The person missing the deadline and the person who accepts the behavior own this situation. We don't have difficult conversations because they are difficult but while avoiding a firm chat with one member of the team, the rest will know you’re avoiding the issue and may decide to miss a deadline or two themselves since it doesn't seem to be important. That would be a shame and create a much bigger issue.

Years ago I had to finally let a team member go after he was late seven times. He showed up on that last occasion with a fresh take-out coffee which was a nice touch.

The behavior we accept is often what we continue to receive.
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Kneale Mann | People + Priority = Progress

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