In our experience, we have found that there are several reasons managers fail to get employees to see and acknowledge that they have a problem.
They assume. Many managers bypass step of getting agreement because they assume that an employee views problem in same way that they do. However, that is often not case, especially when performance problem is a pattern of behavior rather than a single event. People generally do things that they perceive to be in their own best interest. So, employees who realize that a particular work behavior isn’t in their best interest are more likely to change.
In a typical management coaching situation – especially one involving a behavior pattern – an employee is likely to perceive mostly positive reasons for continuing his or her behavior. Take an employee whose pattern is being late for work. Let us assume that employee knows what work hours are and has received feedback from his boss about being late. So, why does employee continue to be tardy? He or she probably sees fewer negative consequences for being late than positive ones – such as avoiding rush-hour traffic, having a leisurely breakfast, sleeping late, or feeling autonomous.
They avoid. Another reason managers fail to get agreement is that they avoid management coaching situations because they feel uncomfortable confronting employees. They hope that employees will discover error of their ways. But that is not likely because employees tend to see mostly positive reasons for continuing their behavior.
They generalize. Many managers talk only generally about an employee’s performance problem instead of citing specifics. In such cases, an employee is not likely to see that his performance is different from what is expected or from other’s behavior – particularly regarding such issues as turning in late reports, taking extra time for lunch, leaving work early, and socializing too much. Unless a manager can point specifically to what an employee has done over what length of time and how that compares to an agreed-to expectation or other employees’ performance during same period, employee is not likely to think his behavior is a problem.
Right string, wrong yo-yo. Many managers seek agreement on wrong issue. They strive to get an employee to agree on events leading up to a management coaching meeting but miss larger, more important issue – that a performance problem occurs each time event happens. The manager might try to get an employee to agree that he submitted two late reports rather than agree that turning in late reports is a problem. The key is what managers actually says to an employee.