We’ve all been there before. Bob says he is being bullied by his boss and it’s creating a hostile work environment. When you ask what the leader says to him, he says: “He gives me a hard time for not meeting my goals!”
You ask the leader about it and he tells you that Bob is capable of so much more than he is currently doing, but just isn’t stepping up the way he needs him to. You also learn that the other employees in the department are resentful of having to carry the load for Bob’s lack of performance.
So what is a leader to do? On one side, there’s a movement encouraging stronger feedback, and advocates speaking directly to the issue. The other is working to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and supported. How can you be expected to balance both? Is it possible?
Yes, great leaders are able to do a little of both. Here’s how:
Leaders need to start by making certain that expectations are clear and achievable. If they are, then it’s time to ask Bob what’s keeping him from achieving his goals. Does he have the tools, capability and information to do the work? If not, help his success by providing what he needs, not by lowering your expectations.
If Bob has everything he needs, but either isn’t willing or able to perform the work at an acceptable level, then we need to communicate that to him. We also need to enlist his help to determine whether he can change his approach, move to a different role that is a better fit, or ultimately help him leave the organization.
What we can’t do is resort to personal attacks, derogatory comments, isolation or other bullying behaviors because we’re frustrated with performance. We always need to be willing to listen. Once communication stops, the problem can’t be addressed. We also can’t allow it to continue. Failing to address the issue doesn’t help and ignoring the problem will only ensure that it’s going to fester and get worse.
Positively addressing Bob’s performance will help his co-workers, your sanity, and, if he ultimately leaves, you will both be happier when he finds a role that is in alignment with his interests and abilities.