Managers can spend a lot of time dealing with the problems created by the less-talented employees.
And sometimes solutions impact their best employees in a negative way.
When manager Melissa Burn’s solution for fixing a problem applied to her whole department, two of her best employees felt they were being penalized for others’ mistakes.
Two serious errors in a week
“You really stirred up the hornets this time.” assistant manager Bill Bates said.
“Stirred up the hornets?” What are you talking about? Melissa asked.
“Well, a few folks are taking an exception to your new quality control rules,” Bill said.
“Let me get this straight,” Melissa said. “We had two serious quality issues within a week – and people are upset that I’ve fixed the problem?”
Penalized for others’ errors
“Jen and George are doing the most grumbling,” Bill said.
“Wait a minute,” Melissa said. “They’re two of the best people we have. They never have a quality issue.”
“That’s their point,” Bill said. “They always get their work done on time – and without errors.”
“You moved all the deadlines up and put n a new quality step, which makes it tougher on them.” Bill said. “They feel you’ve penalized them for other folks’ sloppiness.
Developing morale problem
“No one is trying to penalize them. We’re trying to solve a problem,” Melissa said.
“There are always a few weak links, and the rules are designed to make sure everyone delivers quality – even those weak links.”
“The customer doesn’t care whose fault it is. It’s everyone’s fault when a mistake gets made.”
“Melissa, I know that. And Jen and George know that in their hearts,” Bill said. “But right now, you have a morale problem on your hands, and it involves two of your best employees.”
The Big Question
The last thing Melissa wanted to do was upset her best people. At the same time, she needed to ensure that customers go the best quality the organization could produce.
But she also knew that keeping Jen’s and George’s morale up was key to that same end.
If you were in Melissa’s situation, what would you do? One of the ideas below offered by our readers might provide some guidance.
Acknowledge their excellence, get them to help others
I’d sit Jen and George down individually, and acknowledge the importance of what they do. I’d say, we’re in a bad situation, but we’re still a team, and we need to work together. They need to understand that the quality of their work is by no means reflected in this situation. And their expertise could be put to good use. Melissa should say, since your’re good at this, maybe you can help the rest of the group to your level. She should pick their brains to help solve the problem and say, let’s work together to come up with a plan of action.
Silvonna Ogletree, Supervisor/Team Facilitator, Nestle USA, Fort Worth, TX
Should have asked them first, but get input now
Asking Jen and George for input before trying to fix the problem would have helped. They might have provided some valuable ideas. At this stage, Melissa should call them in and say, this is what I’ve done to try to solve the problem, these are the results I’ve gotten so far, and I’d like your input, because I value it. An apology would also be good – acknowledge the new process isn’t fair to them, and explain she wasn’t trying to punish them. She should say, I want you to know how good I think you are, and I should have asked you for your input before now.
Jeannette Riley, Operations Manager, Muskegon Oceanna Community Action project, Inc., Muskegon, MI