I supervise a great team...except for Janice (not her real name.) Shes a complete pain in the ass, and her attitude is like poison in our team. She always has an excuse for why she cant get projects done, and always blames others - never herself - for why her work papers arent accurate. Im at my wits end. Should I fire her?
Frustrated But Not Sure About Firing
A good manager probably would fire her, but a great manager would give her a chance to improve. Ive met hundreds of Janices in my life: theyre full of excuses...and theyll keep using excuses UNTIL THEIR EXCUSES DONT WORK ANYMORE.
Heres what I would do:
1. Document. Think back over the last couple of weeks. In as much detail as possible, write down what you observed: when Janice gave excuses, for what, to whom, how it impacted you or the team, etc.
2. When you have two or three of these instances documented, ask Janice to meet in a private location, e.g. your office, for 30 minutes during the work day. If she makes an excuse as to why she cant meet, reinforce that this is a critical meeting and its not optional.
3. At the start of the meeting, present your evidence. Say something like, Janice, the reason I asked to meet with you today is because Ive noticed a pattern of behavior thats having a negative impact on me, our team, and our clients. Then, show her a copy of your documentation and give a brief explanation of your notes.
4. Give her a moment to review it. Then ask, Janice, theres a real pattern of excuse-making here. Whats going on?
5. Shut up and listen. Its possible that something is REALLY going on behind the scenes thats impacting Janices work, e.g. a divorce, at-home stress, a coworker she detests. Its also possible that shes never noticed this behavior before - or shes been able to dodge taking responsibility. Either way...
6. Remind Janice that shes responsible for her behavior at work, and making a positive (not negative) contribution to the team. Ask her what she will do to change this pattern of excuse-making. If she cant come up with any ideas, offer your suggestions.
7. As the meeting closes, tell Janice that youll be documenting the ways shes agreed to improve, and that you must have her cooperation.
8. Follow up. If Janice starts making more excuses, immediately call her aside and note her behavior, and ask her how she will do better. If she cant improve, you must let her go.
Ive found that in many, many cases, people like Janice CAN improve. They just need a steady, consistent manager who can steer them towards more appropriate and professional behavior.
Good luck. Let me know how it goes.
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