No MBA mumbo-jumbo, just stuff that's worked through 30 years of team-building in business and the military.

Friday, September 9, 2011

When Counseling Doesn't Work

We've been talking all week about employee counseling, which is that conversation or conversations that you need to have to get team members back in sync with the group. 

Sometimes, though, counseling doesn't work. You've listened to the team member, you've taken the time to understand his or her views and motivations, you've encouraged change and made some changes of your own. And yet, the undesirable behavior persists.

When that happens, there are really only two reasons.

Maybe the person can't comply. Maybe she can't get to work on time because of a sleep disorder. Maybe he can't eliminate errors because he can't read. Sometimes no matter how encouraging you are, those kind of things remain hidden.

The more likely possibility is that the person chooses not to comply. If that's the case, then you either have not adequately addressed the concerns, or your team member's personal agenda simply isn't compatible with the organization's. He may be after something (power? pay without effort?) that he won't find working with you.

If you feel you've done the best you can to reach an understanding, and there's either something the employee won't put on the table or the employee is willfully not responding, then it's time for formal discipline. Give that first warning, put that first piece of paper in the file. You owe it to the rest of the team.

The good news is, the process of counseling puts you in a very good position to discipline. You should be able to demonstrate that you took every effort to work with the person before resorting to the disciplinary process. Your HR folks will like that a lot.

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