Office Politics 101: Nice guy, but how to get him working?

Q: There’s a guy who works for me who is extremely likeable, but not a very hard worker. He rarely completes a project on time and it sometimes seems as if he is taking me for granted. How can I improve his productivity?

A: Motivating employees can be one of the more challenging aspects of management because it reveals how we supervise and encourage people to do their best.

I would presume you have been unhappy with the performance of this employee for some time, but have not taken the initiative to address the situation until now. As you might expect, the longer you wait to speak with him, the more difficult it will be to successfully correct his behaviour.

Complicating the situation to some extent is the fact that you like him — and, no doubt, he likes you. That affection will make it more challenging for you to be authoritative. And this, too, may explain why you feel he is taking you for granted.

I’d recommend you begin immediately by selecting a particular task and use this as a model for all subsequent assignments. Set the tone using cordial but firm language and record your expectations in written form, a copy of which you should review with him.

While he may be rather surprised with your new supervisory style, it is desirable that you identify the benefits to him, including the satisfaction of completing tasks on time.

Rewards are generally more persuasive than punishments — at least, with most employees — so you may wish to introduce positive inducements at the outset which will tangibly signify your acknowledgement of “a job well done.”

An example of a concrete reward could be a small gift certificate or some other incentive; be careful, however, not to make it a habit to give credit for work that should be completed in any event.

In fact, a sincere compliment, perhaps beyond anything else, will boost his spirits and encourage him to perform at a high level on future assignments.

While you shouldn’t be a micro-manager, I d nevertheless suggest you request regular written updates to ensure that he is working on task with the goal of successfully meeting your deadline.

Motivating employees will always be a challenge. Setting attainable goals, providing reasonable deadlines, and using positive reinforcement – with caring support – will do much to enhance work performance and personal satisfaction.

Submit your confidential questions relating to work and office life to simongibson@shaw.ca