Author Topic: How to measure initiative/engagement vs playing dumb to get out of work (PIP)  (Read 2376 times)

milliemchi

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I am prepping a Performance Improvement Plan for one of the employees that I supervise. The guy's main problems are lack of initiative and obvious disengagement from work. He makes the minimum of effort required to not get fired, and now I'm raising that minimum. There are technical issues that I know how to quantify: we want 100% of product to pass QC (this is not difficult), etc. The productivity issues I know how to quantify: start each session within 15 min of users arriving and stop blowing deadlines. It is the engagement and initiative that I have trouble quantifying.

These mainly concern one-off situations that come up and that he does not resolve without supervision/nagging/intervention on my side. For example, he needed to set up a logon account for one of the services and kept saying that he couldn't do it because our IT is non-responsive. This is often true, but still, it doesn't take that long to activate an account. It wasn't a critical issue, so I actually waited just to see how long it would take, and after 4 months, I got on the phone to do it for him. We were done in 30 minutes. When I pointed out how easy it was, he said 'they did it because they had a director on line' - complete and outer BS, which I told him nicely. Another time, he was told to do a task that involved placing a phone order. He called once, no one answered, and he concluded that this is likely not the way it should be done / wrong number to call, and gave up without trying twice. And so on. I believe he's just playing dumb to get out of work.

These are random tasks that I cannot predict. I can ask for 'solving problems independently', and that's legitimate, and I know when it's not happening - but how do I write it in into a PIP and make it quantifiable? Is there another angle to this? I've tried to google 'quantify initiative', but I don't get anything relevant. 'Quantify employee engagement' gives hits to something different. I know initiative and engagement are famously difficult to quantify, but I'm sure there is a way to specify that the above behavior is unacceptable, I just don't see it. I don't think I can say "don't play dumb in the next 60 days". :)

Hargrove

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Eh? Just... quantify initiative.

"Solves problems and takes initiative in his department" or whatever is a fine idea. x/5 with a little explanation. Tell him a couple times that if he abandons a task, it doesn't go away, and it doesn't become your job, and still has to get done. If you wanted to go tough-guy model, you could write him up for insubordination (abandoning his task), or if you want to go nurture mode you could tell him he has to communicate these issues with you instead of abandoning the work, and walk him through the issue but make him do it next time. You could give him a clear deadline for a task he seems to be kicking down the road, like, "need that done by 5pm today. Make it happen." And again, be ready if you need to explain unacceptable conduct, but you sound fed up with this and yet aren't establishing clear boundaries. If he wants to do the minimum, figure out your minimum, and give him that as clearly as you can. Know what your "or else" is. How much is he needed as an employee?

To build more of a carrot into it, you could give a review and ask where he sees himself in x years. Tell him what you would like to do, raises, etc., but that you need his review improved by (amount) by (performing better in the following ways) to get (better score), and tell him you're both going to brainstorm right at that moment how to get him there IF he's interested in it. Sometimes you can "unlock" the initiative in a shy or self-doubting person by showing them how empowering a given route can be. You can be instrumental in that by being particularly encouraging if he does something he previously avoided (that's a function of whether he gets pride from doing a good job). Sometimes you can unlock initiative via positive reinforcement, or even by just showing creative problem-solving strategies. You could also say candidly you know the person is (good qualities) and (capability higher than delivery), which means person is (able to be great employee) and it's because of those strengths you find (performance) dismaying, and you will need to part ways if he hasn't gotten on board by (date).

And sometimes you can't get them on board. Clarify for yourself what you're willing to accept, and then it's pretty simple to see if this guy is going to get on board, but make the effort to communicate the expectations, and you did what you can do.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2017, 09:40:40 PM by Hargrove »

milliemchi

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Hargrove, that is all well and understood. I am past the carrot stage and motivating, and I'm preparing the PIP because the behavior is unprofessional and unacceptable, and that will be clearly communicated. What I need is to get away from the subjective, because the HR will request objective and measurable. It's hard to put in explicit specifics when the tasks come up randomly and never the same. So I need a less explicit way to specify that we can't have him be 'dumb'. I could set deadlines for getting stuff done, but some things genuinely come with unclear deadlines. For example, our IT genuinely can take a day, or a week, to fix something. There can genuinely be emergent tasks that take precedence. I need him to exercise judgment, and put a little pep in the step.

Can I request "that all emergent and/or assigned issues be resolved in the shortest time frame possible"? That is subjective, but maybe that level of subjectivity would be OK. Thoughts?

milliemchi

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I literally just have a problem with wording. Also, I want to use the PIP as a documenting tool, should further action be necessary.

WackyTomato

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I know it can be a pain in the ass for you to do this but if HR needs quantifiable stuff, document every single instance with the date and memory aides of what happened.

The document you may end up writing might be pretty big but that's the only way it's done I think.

Example:

On this date, Mr. X was told do this Y.  *insert the rest of the story here*. 

And repeat.

AccidentalMiser

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For example, he needed to set up a logon account for one of the services and kept saying that he couldn't do it because our IT is non-responsive. This is often true, but still, it doesn't take that long to activate an account. It wasn't a critical issue, so I actually waited just to see how long it would take, and after 4 months, I got on the phone to do it for him. We were done in 30 minutes. When I pointed out how easy it was, he said 'they did it because they had a director on line' - complete and outer BS, which I told him nicely. 

If you let a situation go for four months and then did it for him in 30 minutes, figuring out what to write in his PIP isn't the only problem you have.  He's trained you to handle his work for him.  Next time, you probably won't wait 4 months, so you'll just do his work within a couple of days.  Do you have any job openings?  I think I'd like to come work for you!

Seriously though, WackyTomato is correct.  You need to be explicit in your expectations, document his slacking and get rid of him or get him fixed.


LovesToTravel

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Was working on developing a PIP this week myself and had a similar issue with phrasing.

May not be exactly the same situation, but we included a phrase in one of the objectives within the PIP that said 'work at a pace that is comparable with other <insert job title here>'. 

In my situation, this person's role, like your guy's, includes some unpredictable tasks, but they are tasks that others within the same role would do (on other projects, etc.), so by saying this, we can point to a specific task that has come up after the PIP was initiated and say, you took 4 months to do this.  Your peers, on average, did it within 30 minutes.

Axecleaver

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You're overthinking it. The PIP will say:

Complete tasks as assigned, on or before the due date.

Your work log records every assignment, along with the date and time assigned, and the date and time it was due. You MAY at your discretion, allow him extra time IF YOU WANT TO. That's how you deal with genuinely exigent circumstances (of which there will be very few). Other than that, it's not your problem, it's his.

When you have the HR meeting about how unreasonable you're being - and you will - maintain a disengaged disinterest in all of his complaints.
"I assigned this on Friday with a due date of Tuesday. It didn't get done. You haven't met the terms of your PIP."
"But the phone systems were down for two hours."
"Not my problem. I tell you what to do, you figure out how to do it. That's why we hire smart people."

Don't let HR weasel out of doing their job. Get educated on your university's employee manual. Keep documenting his failures and cite university policy to HR to make them do their job. HR doesn't like to work, either.

MacGyverIt

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it doesn't take that long to activate an account. It wasn't a critical issue, so I actually waited just to see how long it would take, and after 4 months, I got on the phone to do it for him. We were done in 30 minutes. When I pointed out how easy it was, he said 'they did it because they had a director on line' - complete and outer BS, which I told him nicely. Another time, he was told to do a task that involved placing a phone order. He called once, no one answered, and he concluded that this is likely not the way it should be done / wrong number to call, and gave up without trying twice.

I'd have him do everything via email and CC you -- if he emails the IT folks for support and they don't reply, then you know it's on the IT folks but if he never sends the email then the absence of action is your documentation.

I would explicitly document the need to increase his problem solving and initiative in the work place because his lack thereof is an ongoing inefficiency that is not acceptable by your workplace standards. Calling once isn't acceptable if people are waiting for him to accomplish a task. Again, perhaps this is a case of "don't call, but email and CC me" so you have the time date stamp.

Then create rules in your Inbox for this employee so your inbox isn't potentially flooded.

Also... why on earth isn't your H.R. department HELPING YOU with documentation, the PIP composition and whatnot, to ensure it's written to their legal need, etc.? That's dumbfounding
« Last Edit: March 04, 2017, 07:27:37 AM by MacGyverIt »

Hargrove

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I think WackyTomato and Axecleaver have it.

As for wording options...

"Address additional tasks as they arise on the job, and when assigned."

"Display adaptability and initiative by overcoming obstacles to your assignments."

"Problem-solve and follow-up to meet challenges and complete work on time."

milliemchi

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This question is purely about phrasing this specific future goal, in a PIP. This is separate from phrasing a disciplinary action, which I know how to do.

The situation was neglected for a while, but not any more. This is just ~10% of my assigned effort, I've put in more and still wasn't able to keep up. Now I'm putting in ~80% (with the blessing of people who assign effort to me), and the swamp is draining. HR is generally supportive when they get involved, but I need to do my legwork before I go to them. I do keep a detailed list of every request I make not just of this guy, but also of 4 other people I deal with, and follow up with emails for documentation when things are not done within the assigned deadline. This has already resulted in disciplinary action (final warning now) for one of the other guys, and this guy is at the written warning stage. I also talk to users and document issues, etc. Two other people will likely get some motivating, one is OK, and this particular guy gets a PIP. Things are being done as they should be. It's just that the swamp is deep.

LovesToTravel, that is helpful. I will have to modify it a bit for our situation, but can definitely use it.
Axecleaver, that was useful, too.
Hargrove, thanks.

Quote
Also... why on earth isn't your H.R. department HELPING YOU with documentation, the PIP composition and whatnot, to ensure it's written to their legal need, etc.?
Because our HR person left for vacation Thursday, and I started working on this Friday, and I'm trying to have a good draft for her when she comes back, because I want to move things more quickly. Also, she's helped me set up the process correctly, so we can do the corrective actions, etc., she's helpful. Things just take time.

Sailor Sam

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When I had to write a PIP on someone with the initiative of a slug, I included all the things WackyTomato and Axecleaver have said. Like your dude, my chick would also get 'stuck' a lot. So I added points that said how long she had to reach out for help. Something like:

1. Initiates troubleshooting of operational failures within 10 minutes of original report
2. Documents all troubleshooting steps taken
3. If troubleshooting fails, <she> reports the issue to supervisor within 15 minutes after stopping troubleshooting.

This is a slightly more merciful approach than Axe's phone scenario. Merciful PIP's often go over better at bureaucratic institutions. I'm also amazed HR isn't heavily involved in writing a PIP. If they aren't helping you, then they suck big time.

milliemchi

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When I had to write a PIP on someone with the initiative of a slug, I included all the things WackyTomato and Axecleaver have said. Like your dude, my chick would also get 'stuck' a lot. So I added points that said how long she had to reach out for help. Something like:

1. Initiates troubleshooting of operational failures within 10 minutes of original report
2. Documents all troubleshooting steps taken
3. If troubleshooting fails, <she> reports the issue to supervisor within 15 minutes after stopping troubleshooting.

Thanks Sam, this is helpful. Can you share how it went from there?

stashgrower

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Similar to above, I'd go with 1) completion of assigned tasks by deadline, 2) prompt communication with supervisor if genuine issues arise that will delay delivery.