How Do You Increase Employee Productivity When A Staff Member Doesn’t Fit

by | Dec 13, 2016

doesnt-fitA few years back, I coached a CEO who directed an educational institution. Prior to meeting in person, I had been in contact with his office and was surprised at what seemed like offhand treatment by an assistant. Our first appointment underscored some of what this executive was experiencing. While waiting in the lobby, I overheard shouting and thumping sounds (books and files perhaps) coming from the direction of the executive office. The receptionist seemed unphased; she’d heard it all before. When introduced to my new client, I discovered that the commotion had emanated from the office of his assistant, who was my new client’s admin support.

He’d inherited this employee from a predecessor. This person was clearly unhappy in her work, and the entire executive suite was suffering for some time from the abuse of meltdowns and bad behavior. Employee productivity had fallen as a result. Unsurprisingly, our initial conversation was about how to sort out this mess. Whether owners or managers; new executives often find themselves in a similar position of having to lead existing staff that, for some reason, do not fit into the vision for the business.

What do you do if someone just does not seem like a good fit? New leaders have to hit the ground running. They have a small window of time in which they can guide people to their vision and create alignment. At the same time, it is important not to jump to conclusions about staff members, or avoid or ignore behaviors that drag an organization down. Take the time, observe, and interact with staff members who initially may appear as a poor fit.

Find Out What You Don’t Know

There are varying reasons why someone may be unsuitable in an organization. It’s valuable to exercise patience and, as much as possible, uncover what’s behind their behavior. An important first step is to speak with this person in a nonthreatening environment. You might discover that he or she has talents, ideas, and interests that may have not previously been encouraged.

Consider that your new position comes with an executive administrator, who has functioned in this position for some time. What depth of knowledge could be available to you? What could you discover through conversation that might speed your transition? One never knows the skill level this person may have acquired or what great suggestions they could offer.

Employee Frustration

Does the opportunity exist to develop this person’s talent in a role they didn’t previously have? Can you revise or realign their responsibilities? Perhaps a simple acknowledgment of the person’s efforts, ideas, and talents is all that’s needed to help them reengage.

It’s also possible that you’ve entered an environment where the leader didn’t encourage people to develop their skills; perhaps they were not held accountable or allowed to learn from taking risks and making mistakes.

When you take the time to discover what’s really going on with your newfound staff and workplace dynamics, you can determine how to address these issues. Consider carefully what talent is best suited in your workplace and how you want to build your organization.

To my great satisfaction, I experienced a situation where a support person, who was assigned to an executive management position I attained, discussed confidentially how the previous VP limited her to mundane work duties. As a result, her creative motivation had been lost, and she was on the verge of departing. Ultimately, this person made me look good in the organization like no other could. Sometimes, to an outsider, it might seem that a person is not contributing; in fact, their talents may have been lost in the environment.

Armed with insights gained from learning about your new support team, you can increase employee productivity by offering suggestions and recommendations of new creative paths for them to follow; however, some people will simply refuse to move into a supporting role. It is important for a leader to understand this fact and recognize that you may be better off hiring someone new. It’s in your best interest to help those who can’t make the shift to support their new leader to find alternate career options. This could mean reassigning an employee or helping the person decide that they would be better off finding opportunities elsewhere.

It all comes back to vision. As a leader, your vision guides your people and persuades them to follow your direction.

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