Am I Mismanaging My Star Lab Employee?
Reader Question: About two years ago, I hired a real “star player” to join my lab staff. Lately, though, she’s been suddenly producing work that’s sub-par. What’s going on?
Expert Comments: Aside from the potential for personal problems, your lab staffer is probably not getting enough feedback from you, says Valerie Grubb, MBA, operations consultant at Val Grubb & Associates in New York. They may also not feel like you’re holding them accountable for their work -- and when there’s no accountability, your employee will surely slack off after working in your lab for a while.
When you’re managing high-performance employees, you shouldn’t need to re-do their work yourself. In fact, giving ample feedback and allowing your employee to re-do the subpar work themselves is exactly what will help to fix the ongoing problem. You must hold them accountable and make them responsible for correcting their own work. Encouraging accountability will keep your staffer from continuing to slack off and instead force them to begin improving their work.
Beware: Another pitfall of re-doing the work is that if your high-performance employee feels that even their best work will be re-done, they may begin to feel demoralized. This will damage their work performance.
When you’re giving feedback, be specific and clear about the problem. Point out to your employee that the work has been stellar up until recently. Tell them that you’ve noticed that lately their work has been subpar, and then point out the particular errors or areas for improvement. Be clear about your expectations and the standards you have in your lab.
To prevent your star player from feeling demoralized, you must ensure that you articulate exactly why you made the changes to their work so they can apply that knowledge to the next project, report or task. Don’t portray your overhaul of their work as a mystical flash of insight.
Justify the changes you made, and explain your reasoning. Treat this as a learning opportunity, so that your high-performer will walk away energized and mentored, instead of inferior and confused.
Bottom line: Whatever you do, don’t correct the work for your employee. This will set a “good enough” benchmark for your staffer, which will tempt her to hand off the work when she thinks it’s “good enough” for you to take over, Grubb explains. Challenge your star employee, and hold her accountable.