Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Those Who Work Hard Get More Work - Here's the Real Reason People Aren't Engaged

I guess it's the law of the universe that those who work hard get more work to do.

I certainly do see this unspoken law in action all around me and I ponder why this happens.  Of course, on the surface it's easy to see -- the manager needs things done, so work is given it to those who deliver. 

The how of this problem is more difficult to deal with as it's a people issue... how do you get unproductive employees to do their jobs.

Having been in the people management business for many years and having successfully turned around unproductive subordinates, I know it's not an easy task.  And, there were employees who never changed.  I have one prime example that I'll share later in this post.  But, 60% (according to my unscientific sampling) were easy to turn-around. They simply lack motivation. 

The number 1 reason people become disinterested boils down to just this... they don't feel appreciated!  The solution is to talk with them and find out what they are good at doing, get their ideas about things on how to make the workplace function better, and put them in charge of helping move toward the better situation.  Works like a charm!  Most people prefer to come to work when they are recognized as a part of the solution and as being part not the problem. (Often good employees in a bad situation will tell you they are bored - that's a tell tale sign.)

I once was hired as the Director of an organization that was buried in formal and informal complaints and grievances.  In speaking with the staff, I quickly learned they felt their work was not appreciated and so (expectedly) they didn't feel it was necessary to so that work.  During my one-on-one sessions, I asked each person what they thought they were good at doing, what talents and skills they brought to the group.  I also let them tell me their ideas for turning around our disastrous morale problems, and then I gave each person a role to be a leader in making these fixes.  In this way, everyone owned turning around our joint situation.

This approach works like magic! In a very short timeframe, our improvements were noticed up the management chain and we quickly became the "go to" team!  Often it is that simple.  But, as managers, we feel it's our problem to fix.  As a leader, we need to look for ways to engage the troops, not do the work for them.

What about the other 40%?  Unfortunately, other people aren't as easy to motivate.  And, frankly there are those few who seem to take pride in being impediments.  Let's leave them behind for now and look at how to motivate the rest of the team.

Often these are the people who lack appropriate guidance and training as they've progressed in their careers.  They really don't know what to do or how to get it done.  They need someone to show them, to provide support along the way and to help them become productive members of the organization.  Yes, that's a lot of work on the group leader(s), but its an effort that will pay off down the road. We all know people who were moved up the ranks without having the experience, skills or talent to perform successfully.  If you find yourself having to deal with "problem children" as I've heard these employees called, then you have some serious work to do.

When you take charge of such a group, you must take the bull by the horns and deal with this immediately or you will be sunk.  Your first responsibility is to challenge everyone who works in the organization to step up and do their best.  Make it clear you will deal with those who refuse to do so.  Send this message so your good workers know you are on their side.  The bad performers will also get the message and will look to move away or will start to capitalize on your time with their sob stories or will dig-in for the long haul to wait you out.  Be tough and show them you are serious about leveling the playing field.  It's your only defense and ultimately you will win.

It's your job as an organizational leader to document your employee's behavior and have official performance plans in place with measureable goals.  Everyone needs to know what is expected of them and how their performance will be assessed. Given proof of employee underperformance,  you have evidence that can be used to remove them if they don't take an equal part in owning their performance.  Bad behaving employees will try to make their underperformance your problem.  Don't let that happen!  If you do, you'll be looking for some other poor fool to pass these folks off to.  That's unacceptable to me!  You must break this vicious cycle.  Else, you are not doing anyone any good. Especially the employee!

What you have working for you is that people generally want to feel accepted and needed.  Bad behavior results from training people to act in ways that are unacceptable by permitting them to continue without negative impacts -- all too often they are rewarded for bad behavior by being promoted up and out by managers taking the easy path.

Why would anyone want to reward bad behavior?  Because it's easier than tackling a prickly situation.  These underperformers learn quickly the best way to protect themselves is to go on the defensive.  Another tactic often used is to play the victim.  Don't let them do this to you!  Identify where they are deficient and get them training, provide shadowing opportunities and/or detail them into other work assignments to get the missing experience to combat this argument.  It's critical when offering these "growth" opportunities that you establish agreed upon and measureable goals to prove the employee is taking an active role in their own growth.  In my experience, most "problem children" won't want to put the effort out because they have been trained to think their career is their management's responsibility.  Some, given enough supportive pressure from you, will realize they need to step-up.  Others will wait for you to give in.  This passive aggressive behavior must be documented.  Else, you will lose at their game!

The worse part of letting your poor employees get away with bad behavior is the negative impact on your good employees.  Realize this reflects poorly on you as their leader, and nobody wants to do more work with the only return being additional work assignments because others won't do it.

Now for my story about a very passive aggressive employee.  When I was hired as the manager, I was told they wanted this employee to be removed because of his bad behavior and underperformance.  I did everything I wrote about in this article.  Ultimately, I learned his intention was to be the last man standing -- he repeatedly said, "I'll be here to shut off the lights!"  Turned out to be a true statement, as my management chain didn't have the fortitude to go through the process, even after I created a documented chain of evidence enough to have him put on a corrective action plan and ultimately removed.

Moral of this story is you must have your eyes open when you accept an official management position and find out in advance if you are inheriting an unhealthy dynamic in which you will deal with this issue.  With the right foresight, fortitude, and support from above, you can prevail... and that will mean a lot to the good employees in that group!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

I'm in Control

I'm over my pity party!  (previous post)

I don't often allow other people to drag me down with their drama and negativity.  In fact, its so rare, this is only the second time in my life I can remember it happening.

Nothing has changed except I decided I'm not playing this game.  I'm in control of my life.  And, I'm really happy about this.  Unfortunately, the end results remain abysmal, but there's nothing I can do about changing what's been done.  So, I'm letting it go.

Unhappily, my feelings about the people involved have not changed.  I've lost them being in my life, a sad effect of their ugliness.  Hey, who am I kidding... they don't even care that our relationship has been damaged.  They can't deal with the impacts of what they do.  They've made selfish and irresponsible decisions that will have lasting detrimental outcomes for their parents.  I can't say I don't care about this.  I do, and I probably always will. 

Being sad and drowning in drama are different things.  It's okay to be sad about how things have turned out.  It's also sad that family can't deal with problems in a respectful manner.  It's sad to see grown children deny their part in failing to preserve the dignity of elderly people who can't defend themselves.  I've really learned a great deal about how ugly, selfish and compulsive people can be.  It's such a surprise to see family members for who they really are -- flawed human beings who need to adhere to their versions of reality at all costs regardless of the outcomes.

 For me, logic and fairness and duty are critical drivers for the decisions in my life.  Who would have thought anyone could vehemently fight these core values.  Guess I have learned another life lesson, which is this:  Nobody died, ignore the drama queens and get on with my own stuff!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Wasted Energy and Being Lost - Advice Please

I'm ashamed of myself.

Yes, it's true.  I've allowed other people's drama to devour my happiness and well-being.  The core of the matter lies with my steadfast belief in fairness and logic.  Thanks, Mom, you trained me well!

For the past year and a half, I've been embroiled in matters that ultimately affect the financial welfare of my beloved 90+ father- and mother-in-law.  In taking a position to uphold what is fair and logical, I've alienated my two sister-in-laws and enabled them to vilify me so my very standing in the family has been marginalized (at best.)

This has been very hurtful given my decades of involvement with my husband's family, and devotion to his aged and failing parents every weekend for the past two years.  Worse is how much damage this has done to my own happiness and well-being.  I'm finally at the point where I realize I'm more important to myself than fighting to be right in this ugly drama.

So, how to regenerate the positive energy that's been lost?

In thinking about this and doing some serious soul searching too, I realize that only I can control my behavior and master my emotions.  If I can't ignore it, then I must cut-off exposure to all of the in-law family drama.  Not much of a loss since they are being so nasty, while I have much to gain in reclaiming my happiness and peace of mind.

It's that last one -- peace of mind -- that's the catch for me.  I truly believe with all my heart and soul that my elderly in-laws are being taken advantage of and that their care and financial health is at risk.  However, there's not much I can do about it.  I've given my advice and have been told to "butt out!"  So hurtful is what's happening, this has become the daily topic of conversation between my husband and me, and at times even burdening our children.  This unhappy, dissatisfying negativity has to stop!  It's eating away at my soul!

Some would turn to prayer and put this in the hands of the Lord.  I was raised to believe the Lord helps those who help themselves, and why would I want to burden God with this nastiness!

No, I've got to fill my time, head and heart with things that are fulfilling and make me happy.  Sadly, I've concluded I  need to tune out my in-laws and leave their situation to my sisters-in-law to deal with, even if I believe their decisions are long-term harmful and driven by selfish intentions.  Obviously, I can't change their behaviors.  Since its so hard to watch, I guess I've got to remove myself from the environment and limit my visits with the old folks.

I really want to move away, start a new life, and leave them all behind...

Is that a childish reaction to being hurt or is that a good idea?

Still not sure.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankfulness is in the Eye of the Beholder

It's Thanksgiving and everyone in America is counting their blessings...and eating too much food and watching football!

For me, this is the first year Thanksgiving has become a pain instead of a pleasure.  Our family is experiencing problems that have created a rift and this holiday is forcing us to act normal.  I wish that was a true statement all around.  My niece has decided to not participate with the rest of us today because of this trouble - interestingly, she's at the center of the issue due to her immaturity and selfishness, and having no regard for her grandparents in their waning years.  I admit I am not unhappy she is not coming.

Because of this unpleasant situation, we are having our Thanksgiving dinner on neutral ground, being served instead of serving.  While its for the best, it's an affront to our traditions -- we won't have our homemade kielbasa and kapusta, nor Busia's pork dressing.  I will really miss the warm kitchen and fixing all the food.  It's a lot of work, but it's also a labor of love.

There is no love in the family this year, for which I'm not only sad, but devastated.  Even worse, I don't see a way to mend the fracture, I know this is one of our last Thanksgivings together.

Mix in my daughter will be spending the holiday alone in Chicago where she's in graduate school, and the hole just gets bigger.

My son put the exclamation point on the whole situation when he declared he loves Thanksgiving and this won't be it!  I hope his "Friendsgiving" last weekend helps make up for this sorry state.

Despite it all, I am very thankful for the way my life has turned out.  I have a fantastic husband and great children who make me very happy!  I love my job and am looking forward to many good things in the coming years.  I  only wish others in our family could realize how their selfish behaviors and misguided intentions has negatively affected us all.  But, I realize if this were possible, we wouldn't be in this strained situation.  My sadness about the disintegration of our family is shared by my father-in-law who keeps saying he thought we were stronger than this.

I thought so too, Dzia Dzia!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

RePurpose - Day 8

The sandwich generation.

Just got a big dose of learning what this mean from spending the past eight weeks carrying for my mother and helping her through three hospitalizations and two rehabilitation periods.

My mother and I have always had a different type of relationship.  If we weren't mother and daughter, we would not even be friends.  We just aren't very compatible.  Never were.  From the very start, Mom went right back to work after I was born.  My being born premature and spending my first month in the hospital may not have helped us bond.  And, I was colicy.  Nuff said!

While Mom went to work, my dad and I spent a lot of time together and I became "Daddy's girl." Five years later, my brother joined us and he aligned with my mother.  To this day, he is her favorite. And, I'm good with that.  I am happy she had him to give her the joy of mothering.  As a mother, I realize how much that means to a woman and I'd never begrudge my mother her feelings.

As things turned out, my brother has always been removed from us as his work moved him around and he left home as a teen to attend private school. I am the child who stayed close to home (though I always envisioned myself moving around and seeing the world!)  As I had my own family, we included my mother in all our family activities, resulting in her now having a close relationship with my son and daughter.  This makes me happy.  Another thing that is most wonderful is my closeness with my own daughter!  We have had our growing pains, but now are good friends.

One thing my mother did for me was ensure I was exposed to many things while growing up.  She believed childhood was a time to try new things and learn to test yourself.  My mother positioned me to become a strong woman.  As I grew up and started my career, my mother and I grew closer talking about challenges in our respective jobs.  She gave good advice and listened with interest to my tales, triumphs and blunders.  This began our nightly routine of after-dinner calls to talk about our day. More recently, the weekends have evolved into shopping trips together and finding new places to eat. I guess we were finally friends.

This health incident forced us to be together nearly all the time, in reverse roles where I am the caregiver, It didn't always go smoothly as we grew tired and our endurance was tested.  But, we made it... so far!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

RePurpose Day 7

I learned very early in life how to be still, quiet and patient.

Over all, these are highly useful skills, all necessary to be as observant as needed to scope out any situation.

My early practice was precipitated by my desire to get close to wild animals.  Ultimately, I became very good at stalking or awaiting animals and birds, then learned how to move through the woods quietly, then allowed my human energy to mingle with that of the animal to build trust, allowing us to share the same physical space.

Later, I used this "power" to watch other humans without being noticed, something that enabled me to control the situation once I did engage.  It was amazingly easy.

This is one of my lost abilities I wish to regain.  I've begun practicing with animals, and have some success recently with deer.  Oh, I can feel myself getting stronger!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Health Care Observations

I've spent the last 5 weeks assisting my mother with health issues, hospitalizations (two) and taking care of her affairs while she was in rehabilitation.  This had been an experience for us both as neither of us had, thankfully, been sick for any true length of time.

Being the sole caregiver for this period was something I did without reservation.  I've always stepped up when needed, so they're was no hesitation.  Being in this situation made me realize you need to be your own advocate for your family member who is institutionalized. 

Seems health care in general is about treatments converted by insurance and by Medicare.  Mom is entitled to visiting nurses, home health care, in-home physical therapy, and a bunch of stuff.  Well, that's just great.  Does she need all this?

Medications were switched around from place to place until it was so confused I didn't know what to do.  That's the real help we received from the visiting nurse today, helping sorry that out and calling doctors on our behalf.  It worked! 

Length of stay seemed designed around coverages, but in truth that worked out too.

I'm ready to return to life as normal, but that'll be another week or so.