Performance Management Begins with the Manager

Someone asked me the other day what I do.  I responded that I work to improve employee performance and use a variety of methods to achieve those results.  To look at my resume or LinkedIn profile, you will see 22+ years in training development, which leads many to believe that training is the primary tool I use to improve performance, but the secret is that performance always begins with the manager.

I have a hard time not observing employee interactions when I am out shopping or dining.  How employees interact with each other and customers is all telling about the competency level of the local management team.

In most organizations there are probably formal job training programs that teach people how to perform their jobs, but they rarely include training the manager how to provide feedback and coach.  So like in most training workshops, the learning begins to slip away as soon as the training ends.

I was in a restaurant this week and overheard a supervisor interacting with a staff member who was ending his shift and saying goodbye.  The supervisor said, “why are you leaving now, I thought you were staying until closing?”  The employee said that the manager had asked him to stay later than his original shift and he agreed to stay the past two extra hours.  The supervisor said, “no she told me you were staying to close, so you lied to her!”  That is when she had my full attention.

The employee said, “there must have been a miscommunication as I’ve been here for eight hours already and she doesn’t want to pay overtime, so I assumed this was all the longer I should be working.”  Once again the supervisor said, “so you lied to her!”  At this point I wanted to walk up to this lady and ask her what she was not hearing.  The manager was at fault for clarifying what time, and having the employee repeat it back.  She then communicated her assumptions to the supervisor, who out of thin air saw this all as a lie to the manager instead of a complete failure of communication.

My guess is that this company invests nothing in supervisory and management communications training.  Managers are not being evaluated on their ability to manage performance, and so the employee takes the brunt of rude and unacceptable communications.  NOT TO MENTION, this was all done in the lobby of the restaurant in plain view of customers.  Hello?

Given that this is a new restaurant, and all new employees, I’m betting all of this will go without any corrective feedback.  One of the reasons I like TV shows like “Undercover Boss” is that this kind of behavior is never hidden from the peer group, and I love when senior management confronts these people at the end of the show.

I sent an email off to the owner of the restaurant the other day and I am waiting for a response.  If I get one I will be impressed, because most of the time senior managers don’t want to acknowledge this is going on unless they are personally involved.  We shall see.


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