They say that employees who feel appreciated perform better than those that don't.
But maybe the reason they are appreciated is that they are performing better.
Which came first, the appreciation or the performance?
As an employer, can we still appreciate the efforts of our employees, even if they aren't performing to our expectations?
That's a trick question. And a rhetorical one.
If your employee isn't performing to your expectations, don't get mad. First, consider your role in the breakdown.
Were your expectations clear?
No, really. Were they crystal clear?
Here's an example of a conversation that might take place between a boss and an employee. Put yourself in the boss's shoes for a minute. Your employee's name is Martha and you want her to migrate your email list over from Mail Chimp to Klaviyo.
Martha's phone is in her hands and she's trying to post to your company's social media account. Without looking at you, she says "who is astrovince45 and why did he like all these posts from 4 months ago?"
You answer her. "Oh, that's my handyman."
While she's still looking at her phone, you say "hey, can you get that email thing done? I want to start sending out our new emails this week."
She nods and says "yeah, I can do that."
You feel like you've delegated the task because you told her to do it.
A week passes and you ask her about it.
"Oh yeah," she says. "When did you want that?"
This is a recurring theme for me lately. I see it everywhere. Small business owners are BUSY. They need help. So they hire help. Great help, even. But the breakdown occurs because employers are either too busy to train their new hires, or they assume that they don't need to.
This hire-them-then-wonder-why-they-don't-perform phenomenon doesn't usually happen in larger companies because larger businesses have processes in place to train new hires. And usually, it's not the CEO doing the training.
I believe this problem is systemic within microbusinesses that have 2-4 employees because you become friends (if you weren't already). And you don't want to create a hostile work environment by giving deadlines or orders. So you act like your requests are casual, you say "get it done when you have time," or "whatever you think is best" and assume that it will get done, and done well, in no time at all.
And your employee/friend now thinks either "ok, this isn't really urgent" or "oh, I don't know how to do this, but I don't want to bother her by asking a million questions. I'll just figure it out."
And then, when/if it finally gets done, the employer isn't happy with the results. Her employee worked really hard, trying to figure out the solution without bothering the boss, but she spent all that time and got nowhere. The boss is upset. The employee is upset. And then, based on the personalities of these two co-workers/friends, things either blow up or become the elephant in the room. If the relationship survives, the process repeats.
But we can end this cycle.
It takes a little self-evaluation, especially for the employer. And it takes a little more time upfront. But it can save you hours of time and lots of money, plus some friendships, so to me, it seems worth it.
The golden ticket here: Set clear expectations.
If it seems simple, it's because it is. But just because it's simple doesn't mean that people do it. In fact, the simplicity of it is why it is often overlooked. We assume that people know what we mean because they know us or they are competent at their job or because they have done something similar before. And maybe those are all true. But isn't it worth it just to check in and make sure that our expectations are clear?
Here are 3 components of clear expectation setting to reduce your frustrations
1. Set up for success. Don't make a request when you or your employee is engaged in any other activity. Wait until both of you are fully focused and present to the conversation.
2. Tell them what to do. Be specific. Don't use terms like "take care of" or "deal with." Let them know exactly what you would like delivered, in as much detail as possible. This doesn't mean you have to walk them through the steps one by one, but rather tell them exactly what deliverables you want to receive.
3. Give a specific time frame for each task, such as "by noon on Friday" or by "8 am on Monday." Avoid saying things like "as soon as possible," or "in the morning." Those terms are subjective and could lead to a misunderstanding. If you actually don't have a deadline for the task, just make one up. Having a deadline, no matter how arbitrarily it is chosen, will prevent this task from falling into the "someday" pile.
4. Check for understanding. Ask them to repeat your request back to you to make sure they understand. This will feel like a silly task, but you'll be surprised how often they didn't hear you or left out a detail. This is also a great time to ask them if they have all of the tools they need to be successful in this task.
5. Direct them where to go with questions about the task. This might be a support desk or a professional service, or it might be you. If it's you, tell them how you'd like to be approached when they have questions (via email, in person, phone, text), and with what frequency (as they arise, daily, weekly). Personally, I'd rather have all non-urgent questions be compiled into a concise email, but others might prefer individual text messages instead. Either way, stating your preference will save you the frustration of the misunderstanding later.
An example conversation might go like this.
"Hey, Martha, do you have a minute to discuss the email list conversion?"
Martha says "sure" and turns her chair away from her computer, facing you.
"I would like for you to migrate our email list over from Mail Chimp to Klaviyo. Our passwords for both are stored in our passcode app. We have two lists that need to be migrated: our newsletter list and our tradeshow list. Please make sure to import both lists separately. You can export the lists as a CSV and then import into Klaviyo so you don't need to manually type each one. I'd like this to be completed by 1 pm today."
Martha nods and replies "got it."
"Can you repeat back to me what I want you to do? I want to make sure I didn't misspeak."
"You want me to move both of our email lists from our old Mail Chimp account to our new Klaviyo account by exporting and then importing as a CSV. I'll do them separately so we keep the newsletter separate from the tradeshow people. The passwords are in the passcode app and I'll have it done by 1 today."
Martha gets it.
"Fantastic. If you have questions about the technical aspects of exporting and importing, use the live chat box. They are really responsive, in my experience. I don't think you'll have any other problems, but if you do, I'll be back from my meeting in two hours and we can discuss the questions then."
Bingo. You head off to your meeting, and when you come back, Martha has migrated the two email lists. And, while she was in Klaviyo, she went ahead and entered your brand's colors and logo into the template to get a head start on the new emails.
Doesn't that sound like the most heavenly, healthy working relationship? Do you think your organization could benefit from having clearer expectations in place? I encourage you to try these 5 steps the next time you make a request and see if what you get in return is closer to what you really wanted in the first place.