No Win Situation #1

I posted a few days ago asking for ideas on no-win or potentially combustible situations for a supervisor and provided an example. A few readers responded to the example. One reader wrote, "I am very curious about the situation you posted as an example because I actually encounter a version of it in my workplace, and it definitely feels no-win to me!"

Let's take a look at it: a work group is striving for a higher level of excellence. One member of the team, however, continues to deliver just the minimum effort required. Each member of the team seeks out the supervisor to complain about the lack of effort from this individual. After the supervisor has had several conversations with that employee, the union representative pulls the supervisor aside and informs her that the individual in question has complained about harassment from all members of the work group AND from the supervisor. Soon, that team member is ostracized by the rest of the work group, and complains to the union rep that the supervisor has turned the entire work group against her. WHAT CAN THE SUPERVISOR DO?

Short of looking for a new job, the supervisor has options. Now would be the time to sit back and take a deep breath and consider, as the supervisor, what is in front of you. You have a(n):

  • Low performer
  • Allegation of harassment

Take this one piece at a time and consider the harassment allegation. Bring in your EEO advisor (or flip your hat over if you are it) and address the allegation. Investigate to see what is happening and determine if there is any harassment occurring. If so,address that. If not harassment, are there any inappropriate or unprofessional behaviors? If so, address that. If not inappropriate or unprofessional behaviors, is it a matter of a team holding one of its members accountable? Accountability does not equal harassment.

Time to get back to performance. There are consequences to behaviors; consequences to actions; consequences to performance, or lack thereof. Team members are not going to welcome a member who has let them down. Open arms can be closed rather tightly.

A situation like this can be turned around one action at a time: one promise kept; one commitment fulfilled; one team burden shouldered. The employee is going to have to want to be the difference. With this desire, the situation can be a win for all. Without this desire it will be necessary to preserve the team and take steps to cut the low performer.

Potentially combustible? Yes. Very difficult and time consuming? Yes. Necessary? Yes, absolutely. By setting clear attainable expectations, providing feedback at least weekly (maybe even daily) and keeping the focus on performance (or lack of), a supervisor will be able to support a solid performance based removal.

Give your HR professional a call and we will walk you through this and don't fret, we live for no-win or potentially combustible situations, don't we?!