Solution Saturday: High Performers Lumped in with Low Performers

Hi Dan,

I’m trying to make the argument that it is bad to admonish a team for performance issues exhibited by a subset of the team.  This was a recent situation at my workplace.  

We, on the team are required to use a form for submitting entries on project work.  Some of us use the form as requested and some do not.  Our supervisor sent a reminder to the team telling us how important it was to do.

I felt that it probably didn’t have the intended effect with the team members that aren’t using the form in addition to demotivating those of us who do.  I suggested that they address such issues directly, in a timely manner, with the individuals.  

As an aspiring leader, I’m curious if I’m correct, or if I am missing something.

You have made a significant impact on my life, so thanks for all you do!

Admonished with Everyone

 

Dear Admonished,

You encourage me with your kind words. It’s a pleasure to be of service.

Short answer:

Aristotle explained justice as treating equals equally and unequals unequally. It feels like you’re in search of justice. The short answer to your question seems clear.

High performers want honor, not correction. They don’t enjoy being lumped together with poor performers.

Correct in private. Praise in public. (Usually)

Lumping low performers and high performers together, when delivering correction, elevates low performers and dishonors high performers.

Reasonable public approach:

Supervisors don’t have time to deal with every issue privately. This is especially true when groups are involved. There’s a way to honor performance and point out poor performance at the same time.

Acknowledge the good and point out disappointment at the same time. 

Language that challenges and acknowledges:

“We have some on the team who are completing project forms. A few aren’t. Just a reminder that this is an important/necessary document. Thank you to everyone who is completing the form. I need everyone else to step up to this task.”

This may seem unfair, but when issues are young, it’s reasonable and efficient.

Don’t hide behind the team:

Supervisors often speak to the whole team in order to send a message to one person. It’s easier to correct the whole team in public than one person in private, even if it’s not the best thing to do.

Apparent benefits:

  1. Less stress.
  2. Time savings.
  3. No pushback. Offenders remain silent when correction happens in public. The larger the group, the more likely offenders won’t push back.

The down side of lumping everyone together:

  1. Resentment. High performing team members resent both supervisors and poor performing team members when they feel dishonored.
  2. Disrespect. People interpret the ‘lumping strategy’ as cowardice.
  3. Demotivation. High performers wonder why they’re even trying if they have to be corrected with everyone else.

Managing energy:

You’re on the mark with concern about demotivation. Supervisors often forget the impact of their words, behaviors, and body language while working to get things done.

Managing energy is a neglected skill. It’s awkward for many in supervision. I like to ask questions about feelings. It’s not surprising that supervisors haven’t thought this through. Some don’t care.

  1. How do you want people to feel in the meeting?
  2. How do you want people to feel after the meeting?
  3. How do you want people to feel about themselves? (Insert: the organization, the team other members, leadership, or you.)

You might use the above questions for yourself.

Thank you for your question.

You have my best,

Dan

What suggestions might you have for ‘Admonished with Everyone’?

*I relax the 300 word limit on Solution Saturday.