This week, we’re talking about Witches & Warlocks – employees who cast a spell on the work environment creating a toxic work culture. Toxic employees come in many forms, cause harm, and spread their bad behavior to others. Let’s review the cast of characters.
“Not my problem” and their cousin “Not my job” – This employee does the bare minimum to get by, complains when asked to help out, and if what is being requested doesn’t fall squarely in his or her ball court, good luck getting the assist! The risk here is this bare minimum attitude is contagious, other employees may decide it’s just the standard. So, what do you do? First, let’s look at what might be motivating this behavior. An employee may feel like the company doesn’t really care about them, they are just a “number” or “it’s just a job”. So, he or she does only what is required and is first out the door at closing time.
Employees may be more willing to go the extra mile if they feel leadership is willing to invest in their career development. Schedule some time for an open and honest career goals discussion. Set clear expectations, lay out a plan for career development with regular check-ins, holding the employee accountable for continued progress. With a little focused attention, “Not my problem” could transform into “Put me in coach!”
Eeyore – This employee is best described as mopey, depressed-like, and generally negative. While we want everyone to feel welcome to express their opinions, the Eeyore tends to only express negativity and focuses on the problem without bringing ideas for a solution. All you need do is turn on the evening news or look at social media to know, bad news is popular and can spread like wildfire!
While it may not be Eeyore’s intention to usher in the rain cloud, the negativity has the potential to be a real morale buster! Your employees may feel like they need to look at rainbows and kittens just to make it through the rest of the day after encountering an Eeyore.
There are a few things you might try in this situation. Set aside a few minutes of each team meeting and ask employees to share some positive news. Encourage, and potentially incentivize celebrating the successes of others. If you are in an office setting, you might keep blank notecards handy that anyone can grab to write an encouraging note to a deserving co-worker. Virtual notes are just as encouraging! Consider creating a contest where your team emphasizes positive feedback. An increasingly popular idea is an electronic system which awards points for praise, and then the points can be redeemed for merchandise.
Gossip Girl (not the TV series) – We all love a little drama, but the Gossip Girl (or Guy) is someone who thrives on drama and talks eagerly and casually about other people. They like to hear the latest news about people and may seek out opportunities to interact with others, intent on prying into everyone’s life, sucking up all the gory details like a vacuum cleaner on Sunday.
If it starts with “Did you hear” — just don’t.
So, what’s the best way to handle this issue? It’s simple— gossip should not be tolerated. A one on one meeting is a must. It’s important to let this employee know that his or her behavior is disruptive, unprofessional and diminishes the respect and dignity of other employees, be quick to set boundaries and stay firm.
“Not my Fault” – This employee refuses to admit when they are wrong, is quick to point the finger, and is more concerned with defending themselves than finding a solution to a problem. They don’t embrace the “we are all in this together” attitude, but rather only look out for themselves. In this toxic situation, it is important to listen first and to test the claims. Is the passing of the ‘proverbial buck’ a symptom of poor performance? Try assigning this employee more solo assignments, then carefully review their work. If there are no other co-workers to blame, any persistent claims of not being at fault will become more transparent. Better to remedy poor performance sooner, than later.
Toxic employees and the toxic culture they bring come with a price tag. Research shows that good employees are 54 percent more likely to quit a toxic work environment and team wide performance drops by 30 to 40 percent. What’s the best way to avoid a toxic employee culture? To not hire them in the first place. Careful screening and leadership development are the top ways to build a strong culture.
What did you think of the different types of witches and warlocks? Have you encountered any of these in the workplace? Let us know what you did to help solve the dilemma!
It’s easy to get wrapped up in negativity. Let’s face it, we’ve all let it get the best of us a time or two. As leaders, how we interact with our teams during a time of crisis can have a huge impact on employee engagement. Our teams look to us to feel connected, positive and good about their careers and providing all of those things will define whether our organizations sink or swim at any time, let alone during times of turmoil. As we seek to partner with the companies in the industries we serve, we are reminded that we are all human and navigating a very difficult historical event. We want to share encouragement because we are all in this together and there are things we can do and behaviors we can adopt that will help us support our teams.
In a recent article written by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, we are reminded of how one company handled the global crisis of 2008/2009. Leadership used the crisis as an opportunity to spread hope and positivity by leading with gratitude and expressing frequent, sincere appreciation for employees. By keeping morale high and focusing on the right behaviors, in 2010 this company reported its best financial year in its 57 year history. Just by leading with gratitude and giving frequent feedback they were able to inspire and build momentum for the future even during an exceptionally difficult period!
Giving frequent feedback has a number of benefits:
Think about that for a moment. By giving frequent, meaningful feedback we are providing exactly what our teams are looking for from us! They want to feel connected, positive and good about their careers. This is something every single one of us has some control over unlike many of the other things that are affecting our lives, both personally and professionally. It doesn’t matter whether you hold a position of senior leadership, project management, or are an individual contributor or project team member. We all have a responsibility to look out for one another by showing empathy and compassion.
At Deltek, we have been focused on reminding one another that we are in this together no matter what our roles are, how we are impacted, or where we are located in the world. We have found more opportunities to connect socially since our whole company adapted to remote working. We’ve turned on the video in our calls and practiced what we preach about staying connected and leveraging technology to help us do our jobs better. The result? I think most would agree that we have all become closer somehow, more focused, more dedicated, and even more engaged.
As leaders during a time of crises we must celebrate the small stuff, be optimistic, and share as much as we are able to with our employees. We must engage with them, touch base frequently, and exhibit integrity. This is the time for good leadership to shine and help their organizations come out of this swimming even stronger and faster than they were before. You have a choice. Are you going to let your organizations sink or swim?
Only 40% of employees strongly agree that in the last year, they have had opportunities to learn and grow and almost 80% of employees feel that they do not have performance metrics that are within their control, according to research conducted by Gallup. There are ways to fill these gaps in your talent management strategy and ensure that your employees have access to the growth opportunities they want and the learning options that they need. You can even align all of these efforts with the strategic goals of your firm while retaining more top talent.
Continuous goal management enables employees and managers to keep track of their goals all year round, without these goals necessarily being tied to a performance review to do so. This makes it easy for both managers and employees to set, update progress, and review goals at any point in time. This makes it easy to be adaptive throughout the year, aligning goals to current business requirements, changes in responsibility, or new projects. By regularly reviewing progress, opportunities for development can be identified quickly, instead of waiting until the annual appraisal.
Increase Employee Engagement with Continuous Goal Management
Administrators can maintain a library of goals for use by employees. This can aid in goal setting, giving employees a starting point for the types of goals that are used across the organization.
Employees can access their goals, both those set within the appraisal and those from continuous goal management, from the My Goals link under Performance.
Both employees and managers can set goals for employees. This is done with a simple one-step process. They can choose goals from the library, past appraisals, or other employees as a starting point, or create their own goals. This include SMART goal instructions to help make the goal Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Goals can be based on a scale, numerical target, percentage complete, complete/incomplete, or with no score for informational purposes.
Report: The Digital HR Function
Managers can access employee goals from the Actions menu for an employee. This will give them a listing of all active employee goals, both those set within appraisals and those through continuous goal management. For example, we can see the goal set by Matthew and review it here. They have the option to edit goals, update goal status, retire goals, or delete goals. Any updates to goal progress made here will also update these goals within appraisals, so that all goals can easily be tracked in one place.
Goals can dynamically be added to employee appraisals, similar to how job competencies can be automatically added. When you add the new Employee Goals category to the appraisal workflow, in the Content step, the option to Include Active Employee Goals is available, that will pull in any active employee goals into the appraisal automatically.
Did you know that over 60% of employees feel that they are not provided with opportunities to learn and grow! (Gallup) Learning accelerates employee development, fuels prosperity, and is about much more than continuing education credits. By offering the right learning opportunities for your employees, you can ensure your firm is leading the industry and that your teams will be ready to take on the next new project.
Learning plans are an underutilized, but powerful tool. According to HR Magazine, companies that invest even $1,500 on training per employee can see an average of 24% more profit than companies who invest less. Learning opportunities go hand-in-hand with employee engagement. They increase the productivity of individuals, teams, departments or locations; prepare the workforce for the planned turnover of key leadership positions; and align learning with employee development plans and goals.
Providing learning opportunities to your employees will drive a variety of positive business outcomes across the firm from onboarding to organizational alignment.
#1 Learning and Onboarding
Learning plans should be used to support the onboarding process. You can shorten the length of time it takes to get new hires up-to-speed and assigned to billable projects. Help new hires feel you are willing to invest in them by sharing all of the learning options your firm offers. By focusing on learning and development during onboarding, you can help your new hires get acclimated to their role (initial or transitional) and integrated into your firm’s culture.
You also have valuable information regarding skill and competency gaps for the initial role and an understanding of how the employee envisions bridging existing gaps quickly. You may have asked about the new hire’s preferred learning style and how they best implement learning and knowledge gains, as well as their preferred frequency, style and methods for receiving feedback. Effective interviews and early new hire feedback sessions will help you understand what motivates them to succeed and what you can do to incentivize them.
#2 Connect the Dots between Learning, Development, & Performance
Want to have a serious impact on your organization? One of the most overlooked opportunities to increase engagement is by shifting focus to development plans during performance reviews. We all know the traditional performance review process. Employees meet with their manager to discuss the results of their previous year’s performance, and learn their new goals for the next review. How effective is this retrospective approach? Does is motivate your employees and project teams to do exceptional work? Probably not. Instead, focus on the future with a forward-facing strategy to help your employees recognize a tangible benefit.
Development plans, when leveraged consistently, can help you to facilitate alignment between your business goals and employee performance and growth. Learning and development plans help to prevent stagnation in your workforce, which results in increased employee engagement AND improved client satisfaction. As a result, you will be able to more accurately identify the key strengths (and weaknesses) of your employees and course-correct to utilize those strengths or address the gaps.
#3 Learning is Larger than Certifications and Professional Licenses
Many of the industries we serve have very credentialed workforces, so tracking and maintaining the certifications, licenses, and even security clearances needed can be a handful. Regardless of tenure, career path, or level within your business, your employees need so much more than certification tracking.
Leverage learning plans throughout the employee life cycle to address gaps, and to prepare employees for stretch projects and growth. As part of employee growth, learning and development plans should also be used to prepare an employee for a lateral transition or promotion.
#4 Fuel Prosperity and Support Organizational Goals
Learning and development plans wrap objectives together to ensure an employee has accomplished a set of variable items, including things like internal learning, external learning, certification, stretch assignments, and shadowing, on-the-job learning, and skill and competency gains.
Managers need to balance corporate goals with an employee’s personal development goals to ensure the company’s success. Once the manager fully understands the employee’s career goals, they can collaboratively create a learning plan that will assist the company in reaching their growth goals, but also includes training and development for the employee to reach their personal goals.
By leveraging learning and development plans, you will gain the competitive edge you need to win the next contract or project by keeping your workforce on the cutting edge of your industry. A focused learning strategy will help your firm to attract even more great talent by cultivating a development culture that helps establish your employer brand in the talent marketplace.
Many of us are highly “visual” individuals. We visualize conversations going favorably, relationships lasting forever, and being wildly successful. These are largely examples of how “hope” shapes our thoughts. The power of positive thinking can aid us in guiding our paths towards positive outcomes and hopefully create self-fulfilling prophecies. Unfortunately at the end of the day, some things just don’t work out the way we visualize them. Relationships end, both personally and professionally. Conversations don’t go quite as planned and projects end prematurely. Our best ideas and most desired outcomes, ones we spend incredible time and effort on, fail.
The most challenging part is investing, believing, and trusting in something or someone and finding a way to be “ok” when the process, project, or relationship ends before we are ready for it. It takes maturity to understand that (simply put) sometimes change, endings, etc. are in fact, totally “ok”. If I can promise you one thing, it is this: There is an absolute peace in the personal and professional world when we get to a point where we understand that all we can do is go about everything the right way, build the right framework, put the right people around us, work hard for those in our lives (again personally and professionally) and know that sometimes it just isn’t going to work out the way we see it in our minds. That also doesn’t mean we have failed, in any way, shape, or form. It just means our visions and reality didn’t really align.
Although sometimes endings and/or changes are the best things that can happen to us, emotion and ego often times cloud our ability to recognize this. Where this ties in for purposes of this blog is the employee lifespan at our organizations. In the modern employment landscape, we are called upon to enact a superior employee experience, where our brand and every touch point with employees is critical. It presents a lot of pressure for employers, at times fair and at times exhausting. We will discuss organizational fatigue later on. For now, let’s provide some help, direction and relief.
Are We Ready to Pop the Big Question?
Let’s start with a personal example everyone can relate to, and then quickly correlate it to a similar workplace situation. We aspire to know we are in good relationships, we are on target, in sync, and progressing in a mutually positive direction. Ever think about asking your significant other this question? “How difficult would it be for you to leave me?”
This question can trigger a ton of thoughts. Your significant other could be thinking “Maybe I would just be happier alone. People find me attractive and others would want to be with me. I am only marginally happy and I feel somewhat disregarded and unimportant.” It could yield positive thoughts, such as: “We have many mutual interests and we communicate so well. I would miss the partnership and friendship.”
The answer they may come up with could be something like “Honestly, it would be tough to have that conversation and there would be a few bumps in the road, but I can see myself being quite happy outside of this relationship.” Or it could be “It would be far too difficult for me and honestly, I wouldn’t want to be outside of this relationship. I belong here and am incredibly happy.”
Let’s think of that question in a professional setting. We are conducting a feedback discussion with a direct report. We ask the same question tailored to employment. “How difficult would it be for you to leave our organization?”
It will trigger the same thoughts. “Am I happier going out on my own? Is there a good market for who I am? Will someone else be more open to my thoughts and ideas, and care more about my development? Do we have similar mutual interests for my career path, and will they communicate with me frequently?”
This one question has a ton of impact. The answer (quality, depth, etc.) to this one question will support or challenge our assumptions and tell us everything we need to know assuming we have fostered a culture where honesty is encouraged and valued. It truly is the one question we can ask that can provide us with what we need to know about how this employee feels about their entire experience with our organization.
The next big question is one that we must then ask ourselves…“what do we do with all the information, and how can we avoid organizational fatigue by going too far with change?” Although it goes without saying, if we ask questions like these, we must be prepared to act on or address issues and concerns, or at minimum provide follow-up communication on the “why or why not” as this is critical to gaining/retaining trust.
Avoiding Organizational Fatigue
Organizations need to be careful when compiling feedback and implementing change. Heightened understanding, empathy and care for the employee experience is wonderful…but making constant change in a panic just to try and raise retention rates is exhausting and will end up fostering an inconsistent, uneven, and “squeaky wheel” culture.
So What Can/Should We Do
Here is a short list of what could be many items we can or should do, but if we follow these suggestions, we will be able to achieve some balance.
Unselfish leadership and support: we build and support those around us for the right reasons, and we do it unconditionally. This provides us with peace that we did things the right way, and outcomes will fall where they may.
Great programs and processes: in the workplace, we facilitate that great communication with continuous feedback programs and use those conversations to launch development, growth, reskilling and upskilling, learning, and most importantly, compassion.
Balanced decision-making: we need to be agile, nimble and adapt our culture to modern ways, but there is a balance needed to ensure we aren’t just making changes every time an employee is dissatisfied. These changes must align with our mission, vision, and values and not foster “squeaky wheel” issues.
Remember This One Thing
And that one thing is to ask “How difficult would it be for you to leave our organization?” As stated, if you have developed trust, you will get all the answers you need. From there, prioritize and implement the ones that make sense for your culture, and do your best to avoid changes just to save people. Stick to your mission, vision, and values and avoid fatigue…but remember, change and evolution to some degrees are table stakes.
I came across research commissioned by Middlesex University for Work Based Learningthat found from a sample of 4,300 workers, that 74% felt they weren’t achieving their full potential at work due to lack of development opportunities. While this research included workers form a variety of industries, my own conversations with customers and industry leaders indicate a similar failing where project-focused businesses are concerned. Development really should be at the very center of any human capital management strategy – instead we see investment in recruiting without an equal investment in the initiatives that will keep those key leaders and star project players at the top of their game and driving successful outcomes.
Think about it. By acting on a development plan you can impact everything from productivity to the billing rates of your employees. For example, if one of your growth plays includes diversifying your revenue streams by pursuing different types of projects, your development plans should be preparing your employees to meet the new and unique needs of those different contracts.
Want to have a serious impact on your organization? Development plans, when leveraged consistently, can help you to:
Facilitate alignment between your business goals and employee performance and growth
Prevent stagnation in your workforce, which results in increased employee engagement AND improved client satisfaction
Identify the key strengths (and weaknesses) of your employees and course-correct to utilize those strengths or address the gaps
Gain the competitive edge that you need to win the next contract or project by keeping your workforce on the cutting edge of your industry
Attract even more great talent by cultivating a development culture that helps establish your employer brand in the talent marketplace
Let’s assume for a second that you’re convinced, how and when do you start creating and implementing development plans? In short, the day your employees walk through the door for their first interview. After all, you learn key information that can help inform the earliest version of a new hire development plan during the interview process, so why wait?
It’s not as difficult as you might think to get started and the pay-off will be significant. Here are 5 tips to help you kick off the process:
#1 Define (and understand) your business strategy
Whether your business is in a growth phase or is staying relatively stable in size, there are always firm-wide strategies that require employees to stay at the top of their game. Understanding those plays is an important piece of implementing a development planning process for your employees. Aligning strategy with employee development offers a much higher return on your investment and prepares the workforce for the known challenges coming their way.
#2 Get to know your employees
You took the time to define what the business needs from its workforce, now it’s time to talk to your employees. Learn what your employees want from their careers. Take the time to objectively assess (and understand) you employees’ skill level and career aspirations. No assumptions. A star project player may seem like a logical project manager, but maybe they would rather stay an individual contributor. Gaining a basic understanding of who wants what on your team can go a long way toward building development plans that make sense for the employee AND for your business.
#3 Identify potential (and readiness)
Once you understand what types of roles your employees want to move into, it’s time to assess whether they are ready for their next step. Readiness is about more than general skills and experience. Every seasoned manager had to start somewhere, but I think most of us would admit that those first couple of years as a manager were some of the most difficult. A dose of humility and a growth mindset are also important indicators of readiness when it comes to moving an employee into a leadership position for the first time in their career, for example.
#4 Development is about more than certifications
Many of the industries we serve have very credentialed workforces, so tracking and maintaining the certifications, licenses, and even security clearances needed can be a handful. Regardless of tenure, career path, or level within your business, your employees need so much more than certification tracking. Start your development plans during onboarding, and leverage them throughout the employee life cycle to address gaps, and to prepare employees for stretch projects and growth.
#5 Create plan, measure success, adjust and repeat
A development plan is not a static thing. It is absolutely NOT something that you create once and leave on a shelf for the remainder of the employee’s tenure with the company. Development plans should be fluid and reflective of the changing needs of your employees. If you are executing your development plans, than your employees are constantly growing out of them. That is as it should be. As an employee progresses, their aspirations may change and the skills and competencies required for advancement may change, too. Be prepared to keep that dialogue open and continuous; then adjust and repeat the process.
Development plans aren’t just about creating leaders; they are about supporting your employees in their own aspirations and providing a framework that makes them successful. The success of your employees is your success. As your employees mature in their roles and feel your support, they’ll take on those stretch projects and become even more skilled. You’ll end up with a culture of development; a workforce full of people with a growth mindset. You will have cultivated the leaders, the innovators, and the integral contributors your company needs to build a long-lasting legacy of growth.