We’ve all experienced it whether as a manager or a peer — that co-worker who just doesn’t pull their weight. You know, the one who comes in late every time they’re supposed to open the office; the one who calls in sick when they have a full day of student appointments; the one who rushes through their work making dozens of errors along the way. This person is a morale killer and if left unchecked, will bring down your whole team.
It is not your job as manager to ‘fix’ the cause of the behavior; however, you should work to change it. Your first step is to let the employee know their work is deficient and tell them what they need to do to meet the minimum requirements of their role — if you really want to help, don’t wait until review time to do so. Then, let them tell you what they can change to meet your expectations. Let’s take our late arriver, for example. She tells you it’s not her fault her bus is always late. So, you ask, ‘Knowing your bus is always late, what can you do to make sure you’re on time?’ Hopefully the answer you receive is ‘I’ll take an earlier bus.’
There is also mitigation. Let’s say the bus is always late but it’s the first bus available on the employee’s route. You can save a lot of hassle by not scheduling that person to open the office an instead, requiring they stay later on days they don’t arrive on time. An employee who cares about the team and wants to be good at their job will find this compromise acceptable.
Sometimes employees don’t want to be fixed, though, and you need to prepare for that. From the time you identify the problem behavior, start documenting the deficiency and any conversations you have and resources provided to remedy it. It’s better to let the problem person go than let them continue to bring down your team, but to do that your Human Resources department will need to see that you gave the employee an opportunity to improve their performance.
And as difficult as is it is to fire someone it will net better results than what our instinct tells us to do — distribute more work to the reliable staff members to give the problem employee less opportunity to disrupt your operation. While this will work for a time it’s a recipe that will ensure your best employees move on quickly while the not-so-good ones hang on forever. Not the result you want.
Finally, when you have open positions on your team, take care not to just distribute that work to the rest of the staff. There’s something to be said for leading by example. Covering the lunch shift at the front desk or taking a share of files to read during awarding season will not only keep your department functioning at a high level, but may also inspire your team members to do a little more to help — or at least keep them from running to another job.
Let the Higher Education Assistance Group help when open positions in your office become a strain. Our expert consultants can fill any role from entry level to Director of Financial Aid. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.