North Central Business Journal News
GETTING EMPLOYEES TO DO THE WHOLE JOB
(October 1999 issue)
by Sandra Kay Neal, Ph.D.
A typical problem faced by employers is that
employees only do part of the job for which they were hired. This
problem is growing as it is difficult for employers to hire "stars", and
often have to make do with mediocre employees. There is no guarantee
that if the employee is terminated, a new employee would do the job better.
So employers need to better people managers.
If the problem is lack of ability, a training program
can be put in place to teach the employee the particular skill that is
But in many instances, the problem appears
to be one of "motivation" rather than lack of skill. In these instances,
employers usually tell the employee what they want done, often in general
terms. Then they observe that the task is still not being done. Employers
become irritated and confused. However, employees often do not realize
that the task is part of their job, or they do not realize that the task
Part of the way to avoid the problem
of employees doing only part of the job requires that an employer specify
in writing the particular tasks to be done as well as specifying their
relative importance. This ensures that the employees are clear
about all that the job entails.
A second way to avoid the problem of
employees doing only part of the job is for the employer to keep a written
record of when the employee did and did not do a particular task.
This does not need to be a time consuming task for the employer as a chart
can be kept on which dates are entered quickly. This helps the employee
to see that the employer notices both the good and the bad of the employee's
work, and reduces defensiveness on the part of the erring employee.
It also helps the employer be specific in a discussion of the problem.
The third tactic to ensure employees
are doing the whole job is to have frequent, private problem-solving
sessions with the employee. At these problem-solving sessions,
the employer can re-iterate, using the written job description, the tasks
that are expected, and indicate in specific detail when those tasks were
done and not done. Instead of chastising the employee, which at best
only makes the employer feel better, it is more helpful to ask the employee
what suggestions they have for addressing the problem. This puts
the focus on the future rather than past mistakes. To keep this discussion
on the target of being a problem-solving session, the employer can suggest
that the employee utilize his/her strengths to compensate for this area
of weakness. The discussion then centers on the strengths the employee
has and how those can be used to ensure that the complete task is accomplished.
To conclude this problem-solving session, the decisions are written as
a contract with a review date established, including how the employer will
know that the tasks are being accomplished.
During the contract period, the employer
will continue to record in writing the dates when the tasks were and were
not accomplished. The review meeting is simply a time to observe
how well the employee has done on reaching his/her goals. In most
instances, the employee can be praised for doing the job effectively.
In a few instances, the termination for cause process can be put in place
at this time, as there is ample written evidence that the employee was
told what to do, when to do it, and offered the opportunity to demonstrate
that he/she could do the job.
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