I was watching one of the episodes on a TV series which I loved called Outsourced last week. In that episode there is a scenario where the manager (Tod) finds out that one of his employees is struggling to meet the sales target and the top management instructs the manager to get rid of one employee to keep up with the revenues. But what does “Tod” the manager do. He did confront the employee on his lack of performance and asked him what the cause of it was. Then along with the employee, he helps this guy to reach his targets by helping him resolve his personal issue. Now that I believe is the quintessence of a great manager.
This got me thinking, often times, even in the software industry, I have seen people who struggle being cornered and ignored. Most of the times it is not due to the lack of competence on their part. If you give them a chance to express themselves, I have often seen that it was due to a personal matter, financial crisis, insufficient information during on-boarding and many other reasons for the employee to under-perform. The saying goes “Put yourself in their shoes”. It would be appropriate to put yourself in their shoes and walk in it as well to get a feel of what the employee is going through. In my opinion, employees should not only be measured by their personal excellence, but should also be measured by how they support their team mates to succeed as well. A team will only be successful if they work as one cohesive unit. In daily stand-ups if I see someone struggling on a task for more than two consecutive days I would approach them offline and ask how I can help them out. The fact that you ask them and are there for them in their difficult time brings out a sense of belonging to them.
Johanna Rothman in her book “Behind closed doors” gives an overview of how we can deal with such employees. She calls it the “Get well plan” where the manager along with the employee comes up with a plan for the employee to succeed. You cannot simply fire a person without giving him/her a second chance to redeem themselves. I believe this approach is a fabulous idea where you can set a fixed set of goals within a fixed time frame to help out an employee who is struggling in your team.
So the next time you see someone in your team struggling, talk to them, get to know what their problem is and help them out. You will have pride (humble of course) of knowing that you were able to make a significant impact on the life of someone.