Thursday, April 5, 2007

What About Bob?: Discipline

Bob is a known problem employee who has been with the company for many years. Presumably, the reasons for this specific disciplinary confrontation are because other employees have complained about Bob's effect on morale and on the project. While it's important not to 0ver-identify these employees, I believe it is also important to focus more on Bob's effects on the PROJECT than people's complaints during the conversation and all interactions. Making Bob wonder "who's been talking about me" is going to affect morale even more negatively and decrease the focus on his own behavior.

Another initial principle worth mentioning is that the focus should never stray to the fact that "you've had other problems in other departments in the past." Those departments are not my responsibility nor is it technically my place to know that Bob has had problems before. I can only focus on Bob's problems in my department that I have hopefully documented when people have complained about him.

So, as for part one. What will I say to Bob?

I will construct notes beforehand based on the complaints I have heard, that make the issues sound more like a series of things to work on than a "litany of bad stuff." The conversation will hit the following points, though I won't read them like this.

1. The reason I've called this meeting today is because the Widget project is experiencing some difficulty.

2. We (Bob and myself) want you to be a valuable contributing member of this project, and the reason you were assigned to this project was because of your experience.

3. Even despite that, though, the project has had some issues. Specifically:

4. Some of the deadlines you have missed with your work have set the project back. Have you explained the reason for these missed deadlines to your colleagues? (This is intended to emphasize the possibility that there is a good reason, though this is unlikely given what we already know; we nonetheless have to assume the best). Do you think that there is a way you can make sure to meet deadlines more in the future, or at least to give notice if you are falling behind so that we can provide you with support? Is there any way we can help you now so that we can keep on schedule better? This project is heavily reliant upon your work, and we know you're capable of doing it; but if you need some additional support please do ask for it.

5. Another thing we need to talk about is that the morale of the project is pretty low right now. How do you feel like it's going? What problems do you see? (I want to suggest, not browbeat here; talking to someone about the fact they complain too much is not likely to yield too much in the way of results). I think it's very important that everyone stays upbeat as much as possible; we all know that this project is important and that we have the ability to complete it, and we need to make sure that everyone is on board with the basic ideas of the project. Are you unhappy with how the project is going? (Listen here, and justify the project and explain that it's a priority).

6. The timeliness of the project is very important, and I'd love it if we didn't get behind any more. We're relying on everyone pretty heavily right now, and falling behind is not really an option. It could result in some disciplinary action, but I'm confident that you'll be able to stay on top of things from here.

Of course, a memo will be written. Additionally, closer tabs will be kept on the project as far as deadlines etc. to make sure that no one falls behind; indeed, I will have to keep closer tabs on everyone involved so that my closer observations of Bob are fair. This is only fair; it is at least possible that other aspects of the project are lagging behind as well, and may need to be nipped in the bud as well.

No comments: