Oh, the wonders of employee behavior and performance management! Generally speaking, my department uses operant conditioning when trying to change employees’ behaviors. Though, I may salivate (unconditioned response) when presented with time off or flex time (unconditioned stimulus)…just kidding!
As a manager, I attempt to use positive reinforcement with my staff as much as possible—particularly among the more junior staff. I am happy to say that I have not had to resort to negative reinforcement with a staff member in a very long time. I am also very committed to goal setting. While most companies have the annual goal setting process/torture, I like to hold myself to a higher standard. Specifically, I set quarterly and sometimes monthly goals for myself. By doing this, I make sure that I am keeping my eye on the prize; meaning, I am breaking down the main annual goals I have into smaller, easier to attain, parts. This ensures that I am not scrambling at the end of the year trying to achieve my personal development and/or time out in the field goals. It has worked for me so far!
Correcting staff performance problems is always interesting; particularly because most managers, myself included, don’t look to the system before blaming the employee for subpar performance. I am making progress, but for me, this will always be a work in progress. I am big believer in immediate performance feedback. Back when I was a younger manager, I would let things slip because I really didn’t want to have to deal with the problem or the crying person for that matter. Now, I suck it up and address performance issues head on. And, I do that because I really owe it to my employees. That said, I am not addressing all bad performance, just the performance that is going to be truly detrimental to the employee. I don’t sweat the small stuff. What is just as important to me is not letting my employees sweat the small stuff either. We all make mistakes, some big and some small. I make sure that I let my employees know when they should not worry about a small mistake…and boy do they worry! Just this week, my intern made a mistake that would have been catastrophic if we hadn’t caught it . She was on the verge of tears. I told her “look, we found the mistake and we corrected it. No big deal. We got lucky this time. We both just need to be more vigilant in the future in checking the mailing files.” While she was still upset after the conversation, I am hopeful that she at least was able to leave the sadness/disappointment at the office when she left that day.
Each day, I have to remember that the performance of my staff is almost more of a reflection of how well I am doing as a manager as how well my employees are doing their jobs.