Monday, December 2, 2013

Probation is for Criminals

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Here’s a management gem that is so very wrong. It’s the idea that an employee should be put on “probation” for poor performance. When does that work?? Do we really believe that the frightening threat of job loss will suddenly bring about a new and never-before-experienced high quality of work than ever before??

Is this really what you’re thinking: “I’ll just confront Ethel & tell her how crummy her work has been. If it doesn’t improve immediately and permanently then unfortunately, it will be over for her in 30 days”. I get that cringey feeling just by typing that.

We're all familiar with that absurd tactic. And I know that some of you think I'm the one who is absurd because you believe that fear is a great motivator and an employee on probabation will "crank it up" and do the best work they can. Ok, I'll give you one: I do agree that fear is a motivator, but it's not great. It's a terrible motivator.

An employee who is frightened about losing her job cannot do her best work for very long. In fact, her best efforts are more likely to go in the direction of looking for a new job. An employee who is on probation is, at best, terribly distracted. She probably worries every day about whether she can truly save her job. Adios good work.

So, what's the right move? As long as someone is on the payroll or on your team your #1 respnsibility as their manager is to provide the best guidance, feedback and help that you can. Do everything you can think of toto help her do a better job. You might increase the frequency of your one-to-one meetings, you can give her more feedback and and you can begin to discuss "the bigger picture" of her career and her job. You might even be able to "counsel" her out of the job and she'll think it was her idea.

Probation is for criminals, not your employees.


Zachary Braiker said...

I like your idea. However, what if you are working with a talented person who really isn't doing their job well. How can you express this to them with the outcome of improving their performance?

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