My office visitor was a supervisor named Tina, and I thought I had trained her well enough to know that’s not a great way to start a conversation with me.
“Judy, huh? Isn’t she the one who did marginally well in the interview process? The one I advised you not to hire? That Judy?”
Tina hates when I do that. That’s why I do that.
“Look, she seemed to understand that we would expect a lot out of her, and I was tired of interviewing. If you would do a better job getting candidates in here who could do the work, we wouldn’t be talking about another failed employee.”
Depending on how you look at things, she just opened the door to a great HR conversation. And I was more than prepared to walk through it.
“You know Tina, that’s an interesting point. Here we are talking about another failed employee. Do you know you are the only supervisor I have this conversation with more than once every two years? For you and I, we seem to be working on this every six months.”
It got uglier. She started complaining that she is the only one that holds her people accountable. I countered that evidence shows otherwise, and that the other supervisors manage equal or better levels of productivity with fewer error rates.
Then I did the unthinkable. I asked her if she considered meeting with a couple of her peers to see if there was something in how they managed their teams that she could benefit from.
“I came in here to ask for your help with Judy, and you turn it on me? Like you’re trying to make me out to be the bad guy?”
“No,” I said, “I’m helping you with Judy, just as you asked. I’m sharing an observation with you that I think you should be aware of, and that I think contributes to the turnover in your team. Everyone has people leave, you have them leave at a much higher rate, and it makes you unhappy. You don’t like to interview and select, you don’t like to train new people, and you don’t like to underperform your peers. I can help YOU.”
Tina said nothing further. I called one of her peers, told him that she might be reaching out to him, and to please be open to a discussion with her. She did, and he helped her get Judy on track and offered a few other suggestions. And Tina became a better leader.
The truth helps. And sometimes, when no one else says it, it’s up to HR. We have the data, we are responsible for business results. Tina’s boss should have had this conversation with her, not me. But I filled her in and she followed up as well.
I love it when they leave my office mad enough to go do something.