Un-fair Share

Dr. Chris E. Stout
October 18, 2011 — 2,403 views  
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Tote the barge, lift that bale. Oh how easy managers had it in a by-gone era. Control and command were the two totems of administrative power-or so we thought. Just tell your people what to do and they then do it. Simple and easy, no muss or fuss.


            But not so fast! What about reactions to authority? What about stifled creativity in problem solving? What about empowerment and organic local solutions? There's the rub.


            Today we are much more aware of complexities of the workplace than we were in the simple-minded, order-driven methods of the past. But even with all this enlightenment, what is a manager to do when a staff person isn't carrying his or her own weight?


Check and Validate


            First and foremost, check and validate. Why is it you think this? What is the evidence? Is it hearsay from a miffed co-worker? Has there been only a one time incident-for example, the employee leaving early one day for a justifiable reason-rather than a pattern of time abuse? Make sure you know what the issue is before presuming you know the solution.


Is it a disability?


            Let's assume you have collected your information-verified and unbiased-and found a pattern, no doubt about it. As a manager, you have responsibilities to not only your organization to ensure a productive and efficient department, but also to each employee under your charge.  You have a legal responsibility to discover if the reason(s) for the person in question's actions may be the result of a disability-for example, having alcoholism or another illness that may affect his or her ability to do the job.


            Often we do not think about the Americans with Disabilities Act beyond the situation of hiring, but you may have someone who has been with you for a while and subsequently develops a disability due to a deteriorating health condition, aging, trauma (car, bicycle or other accident) or substance related problem. This isn't a workers' compensation issue as the cause of the problem does not have to originate in the work place, it just has to manifest there.


            If it seems that this may be the case, consult with your legal counsel and your human resources staff regarding any obligation to provide accommodation for a disabling condition. You will also need to document everything very carefully; if poorly managed or abused by the employee, such situations often wind up in court to be reconciled.




Talk frankly, supportively.


            In other instances, it can be beneficial to meet with the person to frankly but supportively discuss your observations and solicit the employee's response. In some instances you may be faced with denial or defensiveness from the person. If so, maintain your composure and keep going back to the evidence.


            More likely you will find out that the person is going through some type of personally stressful situation (e.g., a break up of a significant relationship, illness or loss of a loved one, etc.). In such situations a little understanding expressed empathy and support can go a long way. You also may consider the possibility of some family leave time if available and/or referral to your employee assistance program; remember counseling is not your job.


            You also need to set some parameters and mutually agreed upon time lines in which some slack can be afforded, but make sure the employee knows that it is not indefinite. Communicate that "We want you to stay with us as a contributing member of the team. Right now, we will help with carrying some of your load, and in X weeks we will need you to be back up to 100 percent." Support and directness can make all the difference.





Dr. Chris E. Stout

ATI Physical Therapy

Dr. Stout is a licensed clinical psychologist and serves as ATI/PRO's Director of Research and Development. He also is a Clinical Professor in the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois, Chicago, holds an academic appointment in the Northwestern University Feinberg Medical School, and was a Visiting Professor in the Department of Health Systems Management at Rush University. He was appointed by the Secretary of the US Department of Commerce to the Board of Examiners for the Baldrige National Quality Award. He holds the distinction of being one of only 100 world-wide leaders appointed to the World Economic Forum's Global Leaders of Tomorrow. Dr. Stout has published or presented over 300 papers and 30 books. He has lectured across the nation and internationally in 19 countries, and visited 6 continents and over 75 countries. He is frequently interviewed (e.g., CNBC, CNN, NBC, PBS, NPR, Oprah, Eye On Harvard, Time, Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Associated Press, Child Magazine, Chicago Sun-Times...).