I presented a tele seminar last month on dealing with difficult employees from which I received several questions. Here’s one I thought interesting:
On Wednesday, March 11, I attended your Webinar on Handling Difficult Conversations. I have a question for you on handling a difficult conversation with a direct report of mine. He generally does good work and meets his deadlines, but he’s not always the hardest worker. He’s quiet and you won’t see him in the casual conversation at the water cooler like most of the rest of us do. However, he surfs the web on non-work related sites more than I would like to see. (At least what appear to be most of the time without snooping over his shoulder).
I cut him a little slack because you don’t see him discussing the previous night’s ball game or TV show like many (including myself) do around the office. And pretty much everyone in the office will do a little personal surfing from time-to-time. I’m OK with that.
But I was looking for some advice how to approach him to discuss with him that I’m seeing too many personal web sites up on his machine. I also want to put him on notice that I’m wise to his practice of creating a web browser small in the corner of his computer screen so that he doesn’t appear to be surfing (I’ve seen him do this on occasion).
I want to be very careful when I approach him on this and keep it as “positive” as possible. We’ve had some issues in the past where he didn’t take criticism like this well. And I realize I could have done a better job presenting it. (Part of the reason why I attended your webinar).
If I were in his place, and I could complete all my assignments on time, at an acceptable level of quality, and still have time to surf the web, I’d surf the web too. If he has all this extra time on his hands, it sounds like he needs more work to do and/or more challenging assignments. I suggest you give him enough work assignments that are challenging, so he’ll have to put in a full 40 hours or more to get them done. Hold him accountable for results.
If he rises to the occasion, praise him and reward him with whatever your system will allow. If he fails to perform, and the surfing continues, then tell him your concerns about his surfing, just as you have done in your question. Continue to hold him accountable for the work and explain that not performing could adversely affect his career. Be sure to document this conversation in case you have to defend taking disciplinary action down the road.