Labeled: Attitude Issue
Chances are you know someone who carried this tag. That, of being an ‘Attitude Issue.’ That someone may have been a teenager, a colleague or a team member. That someone may have been you. Is it just a gimmick managers use to get rid of the square peg in the hole?
Who doesn’t love shortcuts? We all love them. The current age demands it – something that businesses have understood very well and, hence, the need to fall over each other to deliver everything, absolutely everything, to your doorstep. With minimum effort, gain maximum output. In the argument of ‘smart work’ versus ‘hard work,’ the hands-down favorite is ‘smart work.’ And rightly so. If the task at hand can be accomplished with minimum resources, in the least possible time, why wouldn’t you conserve your efforts and energy? Works beautifully when it comes to living life in an age when the tasks on your to-do list seem to be on an auto-generation mode. The question is do shortcuts work when it comes to people?
As an HR professional, how often have you had to show someone the door, because she was an attitude-issue? As a manager or a business head, have you ever subconsciously sidelined someone ‘cause he was apparently ‘too big for his shoes?’ As a professional, do you know someone, in the team, who simply did not ‘fit in’ and was, hence, the ‘cocky one?’ Businesses are meant to achieve results, make profits. And, most definitely, when an individual is not contributing to this objective, she must be pulled-up, assessed and asked to leave, if need be. However, how many are willing to step back and dig deeper before taking the shortcut of branding an employee an attitude-issue? As performance managers, how often do we forget, that it’s never about us meeting our targets? It’s always about all those who work as part of our team. Of course, their accomplishments will, by default, lead to ours.
Consider a basic example: You have developed a process map for your team to follow. You are certain following this process will ensure TAT’s are met and resources are optimally utilized. One team member, however, is not following the process. Some of the hygiene areas that a performance manager would first take care of:
- Does this employee know the process that is to be followed? Can he explain it?
- Can this employee demonstrate how the process is to be followed?
- When the employee ‘knows what’ is to be done and can ‘show how’ it is to be done, the next question is ‘why’ it is not being done. This is where ‘attitude’ comes into the equation. When you spend time and effort on the first two elements of a competency – knowledge and skill, it’s only fair that you spend adequate time on the third and, probably the most critical element – attitude.
What if performance managers did justice to their roles, before determining an employee has an attitude issue? What if they ensured:
- They made enough observations so as to benefit from unquestionable data?
- They spent adequate time to get to the core by unearthing the beliefs, thoughts or emotions that were leading to the employee’s actions?
- They gave feedback, appropriately?
- They facilitated action steps for the employee to put into practice till such time that it became a habit?
An element as pivotal as attitude, demands this effort before initiating any action. It also demands that you are completely neutral. Your paradigm can’t be that of a doctor who has decided your ailment in the first minute and is asking questions only to satisfy himself. Your paradigm has to be that of a doctor who has a clean slate, and wants as much information as possible before he concludes. It’s the root cause you are after, not the symptoms.
Neutrality is difficult to achieve. Some more questions that you may ponder over before taking the easier route – before cracking a puzzle by calling it an attitude-issue, only because the behavior doesn’t fit into your frames of reference or go down well with you:
- We’d jump at the idea of a team member who is an exceptionally fast learner. Does this strength have a flip side? Is there a possibility this team member may end up demonstrating impatience with slower learners? Or may disregard certain rules with valid reasons that others may not be able to see? If this is the case, can you, the performance manager, guide him?
- Evolution is inevitable. Chances are, your team member, at the age of 25, is far smarter than you are, at the age of 35. Can you handle someone who is capable of constantly challenging your position, with the right intent?
- If your business pressures are not allowing you to invest time and effort in people and improving their performance, why should you be in a leadership position? Wouldn’t you rather be out there – selling to customers, meeting numbers yourself?
- Most organisations are guilty of harping on loosely used terms like ‘people skills,’ ‘interpersonal skills,’ ‘team bonding.’ Are you playing along? Do you step back before perceiving genuine behavioural profiles as unfavourable simply because they don’t ‘fit in’ with the majority?
Finally, have you ever seen these so-called ‘attitude issues’ being turned around? Ever seen the heights they invariably grow to and the fierce loyalty they show towards you only because you helped them understand themselves better? If yes, you’d agree with me – it’s a deeply satisfying journey for a manager.
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