Career Management Archive
Being in the wrong job feels terrible. It’s not unlike being in the wrong romantic relationship, group of friends, or neighborhood. We feel misplaced. Everything is a struggle. Feeling like we don’t fit and can’t be successful is one of the worst feelings in the world.
The ideal situation is for an underperforming employee to decide to move on. But when this doesn’t happen, managers need to help employees make a change.
The first step in helping an underperforming employee move on to something where s/he can be more successful is to accept that giving negative feedback and managing employee performance is not unkind. When managers have an underperforming employee, they often think it isn’t nice to say something. Managers don’t want to hurt employees’ feelings or deal with their defensive reactions. In fact, when we help someone move on to a job that she will enjoy and where she can excel, we do the employee a favor. We set her free from a difficult situation that she was not able to leave out of her own volition.
I get asked the question “how do I know when it’s time to let an employee go?” a lot.
Here’s what I teach managers in our managing employee performance training programs: There are four reasons employees don’t do what they need to do:
- They don’t know how.
- They don’t think they know how.
- They don’t want to.
- They can’t. Even with coaching and training, they don’t have the ability to do what you’re asking.
Numbers one and two are coachable. With the right training and coaching employees will likely be able to do what you’re asking them to do.
Numbers three and four are less coachable and are likely not trainable.
When you’re confronted with someone who simply can’t do what you need them to do, it’s time to help the person make a change.
The way you discover whether or not someone can do something is to:
- Set clear expectations
- Observe performance
- Train, coach, and give feedback
- Observe performance
- Train, coach and give feedback
- Observe performance
- Train, coach and give feedback
Welcome to management.
After you’ve trained, coached and given feedback for a period of time, and the person still can’t do what you’re asking her to do, it’s time to make a change.
Making a change does not mean firing someone. You have options:
- Take away responsibilities the person can’t do well and give him other things that he can do well.
- Rotate the person to a different job.
Firing someone is always a last resort.
Sometimes we get too attached to job descriptions. The job description outlines a specific responsibility that the person can’t do. So we fire the person versus considering, who else in the organization can do that task? Be open minded. If you have a person who is engaged, committed, and able to do most of her job, be flexible and creative. Give away parts of the job to someone who can do them well. I’ve also seen employees who were failing, thrive in a different job. Organizations that are flexible survive; organizations that are rigid do not.
Let’s say you’ve stripped away the parts of the job that an underperforming employee can do well and she still can’t perform effectively. Now it’s time to make a change.
Here are some words to use when having the difficult ‘it’s time to move on’ conversation:
“I really want you on my team and to be successful in our organization. Over the past six months, we’ve had several conversations about the parts of your job that are a struggle. We’ve taken away responsibilities that aren’t a fit for you and have replaced those responsibilities with things that seemed like a better fit. And yet I can see that you are still struggling. I’m very sorry to say that it’s not appropriate for you to continue to working here. Today is your last day.” Depending on your organizational culture, can also say, “How do you want to handle this? You can resign or we can let you go. I’ll do whatever feels more comfortable for you.”
This is a difficult conversation that no manager wants to have. Yet I promise you, this conversation feels better to your employee than suffering in a job in which s/he can’t be successful. After you’ve set expectations, observed performance, and coached and given feedback repeatedly, letting someone go is kinder than letting the employee flounder in a job in which he cannot be successful.
Figuring out if a candidate will like and can do a job is fairly straight forward, figuring out if a candidate will like working in your organization is much harder.
A clear and specific job description should tell a candidate whether or not a job’s responsibilities are things she can and wants to do. What’s much harder to determine is whether or not the candidate is a good culture fit with the organization. Will she be comfortable working with the organization’s employees and in the organization’s culture, and will other employees be comfortable working with her? It’s hard to figure that out during a 60 or 90-minute conversation, during which both interviewers and interviewees are on their best behavior.
Some companies use personality assessments to assess culture fit. Others have lots of people meet with candidates. I’m fond of the job shadow interview, which very few companies do.
If you’re really serious about a candidate, why not invite her to spend a day or a half day in your office participating in a job shadow interview. Candidates can attend meetings, have lunch, hang out in the break room and hallways, and meet fellow employees during the job shadow interview. Candidates and employees are more likely to let their guard down and be themselves outside of a formal job interview. You want to know the person you hire as well as possible. You don’t want to hire someone who turns out to be very different once she actually starts.
Hiring and training new employees is the most costly thing most businesses do, so slow down and invest more time. Before you make a candidate an offer, ask the candidate if she would be willing to spend half a day in your office participating in a job shadow interview. That invitation could sound something like, “We really like you and think you’d be a great fit. Before we make you an offer, we wonder if you’d be willing to spend an afternoon (or a day), sitting in on some meetings and job shadowing a potential peer. Would you be interested in doing that?”
Candidates, you’re interviewing and assessing an organization just as the people in the organization are interviewing and assessing you. You won’t be successful or stay in a job very long if you don’t feel at home in the culture. If a hiring manager makes you an offer and you are seriously considering it, ask to job shadow interview for a half or full day. That request could sound something like, “Thank you so much for the job offer. I’m very excited about the possibility of working for you! I want to be sure that I’m a great fit and vice versa. How would you feel if I spent a morning or afternoon attending a few meetings and job shadowing someone on the team? This will give me an even better sense of the organization and make sure this is a great decision for both of us. What do you think?” I can’t imagine any employer outside of those working on government, classified information saying no.
Taking the wrong job and hiring the wrong candidate is costly. Slow down and make better hiring decisions by giving candidates a chance to experience your culture with a job shadow interview, when people aren’t on their best behavior. You’ll make better hiring decisions and save lots of time and money in the process.
The people you live and work with are hesitant to give you negative feedback. They’re afraid you’ll freak out, and they don’t want to deal your freak out. It’s easier to say nothing.
When I started teaching how to give and receive feedback, I provided elaborate explanations as to the predictable response to feedback and the rationale for that response. Now I’ve boiled the natural response to receiving feedback into three words: The Freak Out.
Every person you know personally and professionally wants to be liked and approved of. Even the people in your office who you think are lazy want you to think they do good work. And when anyone calls another person’s competence into question, that person is likely to freak out (become defensive).
It’s very difficult not to get at least a little bit defensive when receiving feedback. A defensive response often sounds something like, “Thanks for the telling me that. Can I tell you why I did it that way?” The problem with that slightly defensive response is that what the other person hears is, “You’re not listening. I am wasting my time talking to you.” Then the conversation quickly ends. People want to feel heard. And when the feedback recipient becomes defensive, the person giving feedback doesn’t feel heard.
Don’t feel badly about becoming defensive when you receive negative feedback. Becoming defensive when receiving bad news just means you’re a living, breathing human being with feelings. That beats the alternative. But The Freak Out scares people. They don’t want to deal with your mild, moderate, or very defensive reactions.
Because people want to avoid The Freak Out, they keep negative feedback to themselves or worse, tell someone else. If you want more truth, you need to make it clear there won’t be negative repercussions for speaking up.
Here are seven steps to get others comfortable giving you negative feedback:
1. Ask for feedback
2. Be specific about the type of feedback you want.
3. Tell the person from whom you’re asking for feedback when and where she can observe you in action.
- A bad example of asking for feedback: “I really want your feedback. Feel free to give it anytime.” This is too vague and doesn’t demonstrate seriousness on your part.
- A good example of asking for feedback: “I really want your feedback on the pace of the new hire orientation program. Will you sit through the first hour next Wednesday at 9:00 a.m., and tell me what you think of the pace and why?” This request tells the person specifically what you want and demonstrates you’re serious about wanting her feedback.
4. When you receive feedback say, “Thank you for telling me. I’m going to think about what you’ve said and may come back to you in a few days to talk more.”
5. Don’t respond to negative feedback immediately. Walk away instead of responding.
6. If you’d like more information or want to tell the person you disagree with what she said, wait until you’re calm to have that conversation.
7. You can express a counter point of view, you just can’t do it immediately after you receive the feedback.
No matter what a person’s role in your life – your boss, a peer, external customer, or even spouse – it takes courage to give you feedback. When a conversation requires courage, the speaker’s emotions are heightened. If the feedback recipient’s emotions rise in response to the feedback, conversations escalate. This is how arguments start. If you want to put the other person at ease and get more feedback in the future, do the opposite of what she is expecting. Rather than getting even the slightest bit defensive, do the opposite. Say, “Thank you for the feedback. I’m sorry you had that experience. I’m going to think about what you’ve said, and may come back to you to talk more.” Then walk away.
Walking away, when all you want to do is react, is very difficult. Walking away will require a good deal of self control, but the rewards are great. You will build trust, strengthen your relationships, and get more information than you have in the past, information you need to manage your career, reputation and business.
It’s hard to watch people do things that damage them – personally or professionally. And yet, if they haven’t asked for feedback, people likely won’t listen to unsolicited advice, so don’t bother giving it.
If you really want to give unsolicited advice, ask for permission and make sure you get a true “yes” before speaking up.
The conversation could go something like this:
“I noticed we’re getting behind on the XYZ project. I have a couple of ideas about what we can do. Would you be interested in talking about them?” Or, “That Monday meeting is rough. I feel for you. I used to run meetings like that. Would you be interested in talking about some meeting management strategies? I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned.”
After you offer to talk (aka, give your opinion), listen and watch the response you get. Does the person’s words and body language portray a true “yes, I’d like your opinion” or what seems like an “I’m supposed to say yes” reply? If you get the latter, you’re likely just giving unwanted advice that won’t be heard. If that’s the case, let it go. But if the person appears generally interested and open, proceed.
You could also say something like:
“Last week we were talking about your frustrations about not being promoted. I have a couple of ideas about that. Do you want to talk about them? Either way is fine, but I thought I’d offer.”
Or, “That was a tough conversation during today’s staff meeting. It’s hard to present ideas and not have them be embraced. I have a couple of thoughts about ways you can approach the conversation during the next meeting. Want to talk about them?”
If you make the invitation to talk, the other person has to be able to say no. An invitation is only an invitation if no is an acceptable answer. You can’t ask if the person wants your input and then keep talking even if he verbally or physically said no.
Be brave. If you care about someone personally or professionally and you see him doing something that gets in the way of his success, ask permission to say something. If you get the go ahead, proceed. If you get a “no thank you,” accept that and move on. You’ve done your part.
Read How to Say Anything to Anyone, and get the words to have even the toughest conversations.
Employees leave managers not jobs. We’ve all heard this 100 times.
One of the most prevalent reasons for employee turnover is boredom and lack of growth. We’ve also heard this many times.
We know why employees leave jobs. The question is what must managers do to engage and retain their best people. The answer is actually quite simple, although possibly not easy to execute.
Employees want to know that their manager:
- Knows them
- Cares about and is invested in their careers
- Gives feedback so they can improve
- Provides opportunities so they can develop
In other words, employees need attention, and attention requires time, time many managers may not feel they have.
Here is a five-step formula for employee retention and employee engagement:
- Get to know employees better and differently
- Have meaningful, one-on-one meetings [at least] monthly
- Give feedback every time you meet
- Ask for and be open to feedback
- Create opportunities for employees to do the work that interests them most
Managers, how do you make time for these meetings when are busy and have several direct reports?
- Meet for 15-30 minutes
- Meet over the phone while commuting or waiting for flights
- Ask direct reports to create an agenda and run the meetings
- Ask direct reports to send follow-up notes of decisions and plans made during meetings. Give some of the accountability away.
- If meetings get cancelled, reschedule as soon as possible. Direct reports take cancelled meeting personally. Cancelled meetings, that are not rescheduled, send the message that managers don’t care about employees and their careers.
Employees, if your manager doesn’t schedule meetings with you:
- Ask permission to put a monthly meeting on your manager’s calendar
- Provide rationale for why you want to meet–to get your manager’s feedback and ensure you’re focused on the right work
- Ask permission to reschedule meetings when they get cancelled
- Don’t take cancelled meetings personally
- Offer to meet with your manager via the phone when it’s convenient for him/her. Leverage commute and travel time.
Employees need time with their managers. Meaningful discussions and work result in employee engagement and employee retention, so managers, make the time, even when you don’t feel you have it. Ask questions you don’t ask now. Give feedback, even if it’s uncomfortable. Give your employees an opportunity to do the work that interests them most. And watch your employee engagement and employee retention improve. And if your manager doesn’t do these things, politely and persistently ask. You won’t get what you don’t ask for. We are all 100% accountable for our careers.
When I landed my first ‘real’ job after graduating from college I was so scared, I almost turned the job down. It took me five years to finish my first book, How to Say Anything to Anyone, in part because I was afraid no one would like it.
It seems anything worth doing is worth fearing.
I’m not talking about taking risks for the sake of risk –driving as fast as your car can take you, not paying your bills to see what will happen, or offering a counter point of view at work for the sake of doing so. I’m talking about pursuing the things you really want, that speak to your true purpose.
Being afraid doesn’t mean you can’t do something, nor does it mean that you shouldn’t. Feeling some fear just means what you want is outside of what you know you can do. But it’s the edge and the unknown that is juicy and rich.
During the past two years I’ve been pursuing things I’m terrified of, that I don’t know I can do. Yet I want these things, so I pursue them in the face of fear. And I have to admit, that as I get closer to getting what I want, the fear doesn’t dissipate, it actually gets worse . As I can almost taste having what I want, I get more scared. And sometimes I pull back, thinking, maybe I don’t really won’t those things. Maybe I was wrong. Then I remember why I want what I want and step back into the pursuit, despite the fear.
Don’t misinterpret fear as a reason not to do something.
A few suggestions for how to face your fears at work:
1. Write your desires down and/or tell people what you want.
- You’re more likely to get what you talk about having.
2. Take one step towards having what you want.
- Talk to someone who either has what you want or can help you get what you want.
3. Put yourself in the place of most potential, where you can get what you want.
- If you want to work in a certain department, express interest in working on a project that serves that department.
- Tell your boss and people in leadership in your desired work area of your interest.
- Apply for a job in that area.
4. Be positive and persistent.
- No one wants to give a complainer an opportunity, and takes time to make a shift.
The key is to take one step, then another, then another. And when you feel fear, don’t let it stop you. Fearing the next job or opportunity doesn’t mean you can’t do it well, it just means you haven’t done it yet.
When you need encouragement to face your fears, hang our inspiring magnets at your desk. You have to believe in yourself just as much as the people around you believe in you.
People are drowning in data, more specifically in email. If you want people to read your communications, send short emails and fewer of them.
How often do you open an email, see its daunting length, close the email promising you’ll get back to it later, but don’t. Then you bump into the sender a week later and he asks, in an annoyed tone, “Did you get my email?” And you attempt to conjure up the email, distinguishing it from the 1500 you’ve received since.
Some people like receiving lots of information, others don’t. Ask your internal and external customers how much information they want to receive, in what format, how frequently, and with how much detail. And when you can, accommodate their preferences.
I’m a big picture person. For me, more information is not necessarily better. I’ll read five bullets. I won’t read five paragraphs. I’m frequently guilty of opening a long email, becoming overwhelmed, deciding I don’t have time to read the entire message, promising to read it later, and by the time I go back to the message, I’ve typically missed a deadline.
You can say it’s my problem that I don’t read long emails, not the sender’s problem. And you’d be right. I should read every email I get in full. But when I don’t give the sender something she needs, because I was overwhelmed by the length of her email, it becomes her problem too. If you want people to respond and do what you’re asking, communicate how they like to communicate, whenever possible.
I’d like to say that people are so used to reading short text messages and Facebook and Twitter updates that they’ve been trained not to read anything longer than a few sentences. And there may be something to that. But the truth, is there are detail people who like a lot of data and there are big picture people who don’t. If you provide a high level summary – just what recipients need to know – followed by more details or information on where more details can be found, you accommodate both the detail and the big picture people.
When you write your next email or any other type of communication, consider, could this be said with fewer words? Do the recipients want or need this level of detail? Then, shorten your communications and accommodate both the big picture and the detail people. And you’ll be amazed at how quickly you receive the things you’re asking for.
And if that’s not working, go old school and use our greeting cards to write a note, because no one can resist and handwritten note.
How many times do you walk by something in your house or office and think, “I have to clean that up?” Or get in your car and think, “I really need to wash this thing.” Every day we put up with things that drain our energy and attention, but we often do nothing.
What you’re tolerating may be small –a disorganized drawer or desk. But it may also be bigger –an unsatisfying relationship, a job you’ve outgrown, or a policy with which you disagree.
I took a time management class years ago and the trainer helped us organize our Word files so things were easier to find. She asked the question, “What are you tolerating?” I thought it was a funny question in relation to my laptop’s hard drive. But after my files were organized and I could access things without searching for 20 minutes, I realized how much time I’d been wasting and what I was indeed tolerating.
What frustrates you, but you’re so used to it, you no longer even notice? Perhaps you’re tired of responding to emails late at night or on the weekends? Or frustrated by people who don’t keep their word? We train people to treat us as they treat us.
Here a few suggestions for how to say no at work:
Start cleaning up the small things that make you cringe each time you look at them. Perhaps start with your desk or a drawer you’re afraid to open. Then consider when you’ve said yes, when you meant no. These situations are harder than cleaning out a drawer because they involve other people.
If you’ve agreed to something you don’t want to do, you can often renegotiate. Saying no at work could sound something like this, “I said I really wanted to lead X project and realized that I don’t have the time to do the project justice. I think I need to replace myself. I’m sorry to suggest a change so late in the game. I shouldn’t have offered to take it on in the first place. It was too ambitious. Who do you think would be a good fit?” Retracting yourself is better than doing a poor job.
Or, “I realized I said I’d plan our next family reunion. I’d love to do it and don’t feel I have the time to do the event justice. Who do you think would take it on?”
If you’ve committed to something you really don’t want to do, it will likely show. You’ll resent it and might not do the best job. Both of which are bad for your relationships and reputation. So start speaking up and saying no at work. And if that feels too big, go wash your car. You’ve got to start somewhere.
Seven years ago today I left my corporate job and started what’s now Candid Culture. Thank you for your support and for working towards having a more candid workplace. Please enjoy 20% off all of our resources through Friday May 16th. Use code: 7YEARSOFCANDOR.
The time to ask for a raise isn’t at the end of the year. In fact, the end of the year, when compensation decisions have likely already been made and you’re competing with everyone else in your organization for a finite pool of money, is the worst time to ask for a raise. The time to ask for a raise is at the beginning of the year, and it could sound like this:
How to ask for a raise:
“Next year I’d like to take on more responsibility and be earning _____. What would it take to get me there? I’ve written a few goals. Can we review the goals together and talk about if this is the right course of action to help me get to the next level?”
Set yourself and your boss up for success in giving you a raise. Significant pay increases need to be justified and approved by others in the organization. And results justify raises.
A few steps to take to get the pay increase you want:
- At the beginning of the year, you and your boss should agree upon goals that are important to the organization.
- Agree that at the end of the year, goal achievement will position you for more responsibility and more money.
No manager will promise a raise a year out, but ensure your career path is a conversation that will be had.
Given that you may want to ask for a raise now, here are some techniques for asking for more money in the middle of the year:
- Schedule time to talk with your boss, so you’re sure to have her undivided attention.
- Bring a list of accomplishments from the past months or years. Be sure to document those accomplishments in whatever format and level of detail your organization’s decision makers’ like to get information. You’ll know that by watching how the leaders communicate.
- Give your boss a copy of the list.
- Be bold. Use words like, “I’d like to talk with you about my career. It’s been _____ months/years since I’ve had a raise. I’ve generated __________ results. Can we discuss what it would take to get me to the next level?”
- Don’t say, “This is awkward and I’m uncomfortable asking, but I’d like to talk about my compensation.” That’s not a powerful way to ask for anything.
The worst you will get is a no. You won’t get fired or ‘in trouble’ for asking. And if you get a no, ask, “What do I need to do to position myself for a significant pay increase in the next year?”
When asking for money, time, or resources, it’s easier to say no than it is to say yes. So give your manager something that’s easy to say yes to.
When asking for a raise, say:
- “I’d like to position myself for more responsibility and more money.
- What do I need to do to do that?
- What’s a reasonable time frame to make that happen?
- Whose support do I need in addition to yours?
- What can I do to ensure the leaders who will also impact the decision are knowledgeable about my contributions?”
You will not get what you don’t ask for. So be bold, but also be deliberate, planful, and smart about how you ask.
Companies want people who make things happen. And to make things happen, you have to speak up. No, anticipating the train wreck and commenting after the train goes off the tracks doesn’t count.
What if you said what you thought, in a way other people could hear you, when you had the right to do so? Meaning, you have the relationship with the other person to tell the truth and you’ve asked permission to be candid?
6 Courageous Steps to Advance Your Career:
- Look for opportunities to make things better.
- Ask for permission to take the ball and run with it.
- Build relationships with other people who are making things happen.
- Don’t say yes, when they mean no.
- Find a way to say no, while engaging the other person in a conversation so a new approach is generated.
- Are willing to go out on a limb, work hard, and fail.
Here’s how to speak up for change without being labeled as the problem person who finds flaws in everything:
- Look for and present solutions, not merely problems.
- Offer to do the work to move towards a better way of doing things. Don’t drop problems at your other people’s doors.
- Ask questions versus overtly say why something is wrong. That could sound something like, “I’d love to help. Tell me more about the process. Perhaps we can insert a step to make this better. What do you think of trying…?” No one likes to be told he’s wrong. Asking questions elicits participation more than overtly saying, “This is broken. We need to fix it.”
Many people are afraid to speak up at work and believe that people who speak up get fired. I haven’t found this to be the case. People who work hard and produce results are typically the last people to be let go.
Say what you think in a way that is not critical; offer solutions not just problems; be a force for good and take an active role in making things better, and my hunch is your career will accelerate faster than you ever thought possible.