Many employers don’t like to have formal meetings, i.e. in private, with closed doors, with staff who are not performing.
Instead, they feel that an “informal” comment at their desk or the coffee machine will be enough for the person to understand the feedback and act on it.
In an ideal world, that would be the case. But years of experience shows me that it’s not.
And a recent incident highlights the point:
I was called in to “deal with” the PA to the MD.
And by “deal with”, I mean that – of course – he wanted to get rid of her.
She’d be working for him for under two years, so our initial plan was to have a meeting with her, say what was going wrong and part company with her.
However, after speaking to the MD before the meeting it became clear that he’d NEVER had a formal meeting with her to discuss any of the things he now wanted to fire her for.
Instead, he’d simply stopped asking her to do the tasks she was getting wrong, or mentioned that she’d not done something correctly, as he was walking out of the office.
With nothing in writing, and no meetings as evidenced, I recommended that we give her “one last chance” after we’d spoken to her and documented the problems.
She had NO idea that things had gone wrong, because the MD had failed to convey the seriousness and importance of the mess ups to her.
And here’s the thing – even after the meeting she didn’t really “get it”, because the reality is that a huge proportion of people don’t take anything that’s said verbally that seriously.
But when she received the notes of the meeting, with the required improvement documented and deadlined, things changed.
Shortly after receiving those notes, she went off sick with stress and then resigned a week later.
Moral of the story?
If you’re not happy with an employee’s performance, sit down with them and discuss it.
And then confirm in writing (email is fine) what has been agreed, with deadlines.
This method provides no scope for misunderstanding and hopefully performance will improve.
And if it doesn’t, you at least have a fair and reasonable basis for proceeding to more formal measures without staff claiming, “but you never said!”.