As a customer how often have you experienced poor service from people obviously unsuitable for a retail environment? As a retail executive, how often have you observed poor performance or unsatisfactory behaviour within your own network of branches? If so, you have probably wondered why branch managers tolerate under-performance or poor behaviour? Anthony Dance has been supporting retail managers in performance management issues for over ten years and believes both problem and remedy is at area management level. Anthony explains:
Performance and behaviour management is by far most difficult aspect of any manager’s job and reluctance to ‘grasp nettle’ when performance or behaviour issues emerge is certainly a concern in many organisations. But at end of day that is what managers are paid to do and not doing so will certainly affect service, team morale, sales and ultimately bottom line.
Why does this reluctance exist, why do so many mangers back away from confrontation? The problems and challenges that need to be overcome are many and common reasons and ‘excuses’ for not doing so are as follows:
It is Risky – There is a worry in back of manager’s mind that discussions could turn into heated arguments and that they may open themselves up for harassment or bullying accusations. There is also a concern that team moral and motivation may be damaged by tackling an under-performer and that team may even turn against manager.
It is Complicated and Difficult– Performance and behaviour management is not straight forward, it is very seldom clear cut or black and white. It is ‘grey area’ stuff and often involves opinions, perceptions and subjectivity. As managers feel they cannot quantify and then justify their concerns clearly enough they do not attempt to do so.
It is Hard Work and Time Consuming – Many managers feel they do not have time to sort out under-performers and that it is low on priority list. “It is not worth hassle” is a common comment to be heard.
Denial – Many managers are either blind to fact that a person is under-performing or behaving unacceptably or they do not see it is a serious enough issue to address. There are even managers who believe that it is not their job to tackle performance and behaviour issues and that some day, someone will come along and do it for them.
Many of aforementioned points tend to be excuses rather than reasons but there are a number of more important points that need to be taken into consideration:
Lack of Training – No new manager has any previous experience of performance and behaviour issues when they move into a manager role for first time. New managers often inherit performance or behaviour issues from previous manager and yet are not given relevant training for tackling these issues from onset. Giving managers basic employment law training and company procedures to read is not ‘practical’ training they need and is certainly insufficient on its own. All managers need a thorough grounding in use of performance management tools and practice in their use. Job specs, probationary periods, reviews, counselling sessions, appraisals and disciplinary procedures are all useful performance and behaviour tools when used correctly and at right time. Yet this vital training is not made on someone’s appointment, often it is made later in their careers when much damage has been done.
Courage and Confidence – Doing something risky, difficult and complicated requires both courage and confidence. Unfortunately many branch managers lack both. Even if managers are given knowledge and skill to tackle performance or behaviour issues, they will not do so without these essential qualities.
The problems and challenges are undoubtedly great and many may see issue as un-resolvable however there is someone available to branch managers who can help them overcome many of problems and challenges and that someone is their boss Area Manager.
Guidance, Coaching and Support The area manger is only person who can guide, coach and support branch managers in addressing of performance or behaviour issues. They can un-complicate issues and help managers build a strong case for presenting to an employee. The area manager can also help manager minimise risk of harassment or bullying claims by ensuring correct procedures are being used and that managers say right things in correct way.
More importantly a good area manager will ‘encourage’ and give manager much needed confidence. The area manager is only one who can do this but unfortunately in many instances this is not happening and by not doing so area managers are unconsciously (or consciously) influencing a reluctance to tackle performance or behaviour issues within their branches.
Why is this happening?
Asking for support and guidance – Many branch managers are certainly reluctant to approach their area manager when they experience performance or behaviour issues within team. If matter falls into gross misconduct category then managers will contact area manager (and HR function) in first instance. But for ‘grey area’ performance or behaviour matters they tend to keep issues to themselves. The reasons for this are as follows: