In The Workplace

I’m the chief executive officer (CEO) of a small family enterprise. We have a department manager, a non-family member who refuses to observe even the basic protocols for ensuring the health and safety of our food products. Last month, he failed to hire a pest control service provider in a timely manner. I had to go over his head to hire one. It resulted in the discovery and elimination of more than a thousand cockroaches and rodents inside the factory. This is unacceptable. Is there a cure for this without eroding our preferred way of running things, which is paternalistic management? — Pestered.

A CEO’s executive secretary resigned to get married and settle overseas. Her boss gave her a big hug and told her: “You’ve been like a daughter to me — abrasive, impolite and unappreciative. Good luck in your future endeavors!”

At times, this may happen to any corporate official who treats people like they’re family. While being paternalistic to employees who are not family has its own advantages, you must also be aware of the disadvantages.

You must maintain a safe, professional distance in managing your direct reports. Regardless of the conditions, any CEO may fail or succeed depending on their ability to proactively manage any situation that could mitigate losses and convert any crisis into opportunity.

With or without being paternalistic, you must establish parameters so you can tell when managers or workers have reached their limits. One way to address this is to implement a performance management system that spells out the job’s requirements, standards, timelines and targets.

When anyone, regardless of rank or job, is not performing to management expectations, you can always charge them with insubordination, negligence, or whatever offenses are applicable in your company’s code of conduct. Ignoring such cases may cause you further trouble that may erode morale if the worker is a manager.

It also sets a bad precedent that could lead other managers to turn in below-par performances. You can start by engaging with the problem manager to reset the work relationship. You can do this through a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) that effectively puts the manager back to probation status, though you may not want to be too blunt about it.

It’s not easy, but unless you address things firmly, you’ll get nowhere.

The internet offers an ocean of information on PIP templates. Choose one that suits your style. Whatever you choose, I recommend observing the following elements:

One, identify key performance expectations. If your organization has an established performance management system, you can adjust it by defining what you want through a SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound) approach. You must mutually spell these out with the help of the problem manager, who must be held accountable for the goals set.

Two, monitor performance and provide continuing feedback. For the time being, you may hover over the problem manager to closely monitor performance. Give progress reviews every three days. Put your ear to the ground and tap the grapevine for indications that progress is being made.

Three, identify training needs. Knowledge, attitude, ability and skills (KASH) development programs may be needed under the PIP. But before spending big money, think hard before investing in the future of the problem manager. This could mean hiring an external executive mentor to fast-track the training process.

Four, summarize performance over an agreed period. It could be daily, weekly, or monthly. Waiting for two to three months may be too late. It could be through an online or in-person reporting. Whatever you do, demand actual facts and figures that can be independently verified with other departments.

Last, recognize the problem manager as soon as progress is made. It can come in many forms like taking the manager to lunch, or by providing the team a modest merienda (afternoon snack). While doing this, highlight the latest accomplishments of the manager and department.

These five elements can’t be done in a vacuum. You need a self-propelled monitoring system that documents the progress of the problem manager’s department. One way of doing this is by establishing a corporate dashboard or a bulletin board that would chart the progress of each department, not just the problem manager’s department.

You can choose all factors that you wish to highlight in the dashboard, which should be accessible to all workers, and not just department managers. Such factors may include priority areas like food safety, health, quality and productivity, and absenteeism.

This must be done daily or weekly depending on your circumstances. You can’t manage if you can’t measure.


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