Monday, April 26, 2010

How to overcome a recalcitrant staff member or Wally like behavior ?

CIOs often come across situations where they realize that certain individual(s) in their team are unable to deliver even basic results. Typically, such individuals may have survived multiple bosses, or been in the company for a very long time like Wally (from the famous Dilbert series). All efforts to bring about change may have yielded microscopic results. Let me use a couple of examples to illustrate such cases.

You go into a management meeting along with some of your team members; the expectation is to gain consensus on the way forward on a difficult project. All is going well, till silence falls with uncomfortable stares. Or the meeting is halted because one of your team members blundered and lost all gained ground.

Another case is a review meeting with the CEO on what IT is doing. You get started, and then get hit on the head—one of your staff members has not kept promise despite reminders and follow-ups. It was something that you did not focus on, considering the task’s facile nature (which any idiot would find difficult to go wrong on). But then, you are now at the receiving end.

In both cases, you may feel like strangling the person. But, that’s not the corporate way of dealing with frustration!

So the first response seems to indicate that you “fire” the person. That’s an easy solution, but should be the last resort. Instead, here are some other alternatives that you could review:
  1. Assign a coach to the person with daily/weekly feedback without holding anything back.
  2. Give the truth as it is, along with advice for improvement.
  3. It could be professional arrogance (“I am better than others”) that translates into negative attitude. Introduce him to others who are better and show him the reality.
  4. Put him on a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan). Make it clear why he is on PIP—that it’s not because of work, but attitude.
  5. Assign him away from the “critical” nature of the work, which works at times to demonstrate that he is not irreplaceable. It may moderate his behavior.
  6. It could also be a genuine case of incompetence. Try training.
If all these steps don’t work, then the choice is obvious. But that’s also a difficult act to execute!

It’s important to take action sooner than later, as you may risk polluting the contributors and good staff. Delay will encourage the person to continue his (mis)contributions to the department. I have observed procrastination becoming the nemesis of many CIOs, so all I can say is, ACT NOW !

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