North Central Business Journal News
UNCOOPERATIVE EMPLOYEES, PART 2
(May 2001 issue)
by Sandra Kay Neal, Ph.D.
Last month, we looked at one possible
reason why employees don’t do as their manager expects. That possibility
was miscommunication. This month, we’ll look at a second possible
reason why employees appear uncooperative.
If a manager followed the advice of last
month and provided the expectations in writing, and the employee still
did not complete the task as expected, the manager now needs to confront
the employee with the written record of the previous communication and
indicate with specific incidents of how that directive was not followed.
The manager then needs to ask in a non-judgmental, non-threatening manner
This approach keeps open the possibility
that the employee really did not understand what the directive actually
involved. This may sound strange, but many times employees think
they are following orders and simply did not understand what those orders
actually entailed. Describing examples in specific details often
helps people recognize exactly what they are expected to do in similar
circumstances. If this is the case, the employee usually apologizes
Asking the employee “what happened?”
also offers the employee the chance to explain the employee’s thinking.
Employees are not machines – they think about the tasks they do.
They don’t always think of those tasks as their supervisors do, but they
nonetheless have opinions about their tasks. Many times, employees
appear to be disregarding instructions because they think they have a better
way of accomplishing the task. Sometimes their approach may be an
acceptable substitute for the process supported by their supervisors, in
which case giving the employee the chance to explain allows the supervisor
to support the employee’s manner of doing things.
Sometimes, however, the employee’s approach
misses an important aspect which the supervisor understands. Hearing
the employee’s explanation offers the supervisor the opportunity to explain
why the supervisor’s approach is the better tactic. This helps the
employee appreciate the broader ramifications of the supervisor’s approach
and is likely to increase the employee’s grasp of the company’s objectives.
It also helps the employee to feel valued for his/her ability to grasp
the goals of the company, and increases the likelihood that he/she will
work toward those goals.
If, on the other hand, the employee indicates
that he/she just didn’t want to take the extra time to do the task as specified
by the manager, then the manager can work with the employee to determine
how to prioritize the tasks the employee is doing. Employees often
give minor tasks more importance than they warrant. Keeping the focus
on the important tasks can reduce wasted time and ensure quality performance.
A few days after the conversation, the
supervisor needs to look specifically at whether the employee has followed
the directions. If that has happened, the supervisor needs to tell
the employee how pleased he/she is that the task is now being done properly.
Many managers forget to acknowledge when employees are doing things correctly.
Employees tend to take pride in the quality of their work, and appreciate
when their bosses notice. This noticing by their supervisor goes
a long way toward maintaining quality performance.
If, on the other hand, the employee continues
to blatantly disregard instructions, then the disciplinary procedures of
the company can be put in place, which may include termination. At
this point, the manager knows that everything possible was done to correct
the situation. There is also a written record of the steps taken
to ensure compliance should there be any legal problems.
Sandra Kay Neal holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational
Psychology and has 19 years experience helping organizations solve human
resource issues. Her company, Synergistic Organizational Solutions,
specializes in aiding small businesses. Dr. Neal can be reached at