July 5, 2005

Transforming Shirkers to Workers: A Self-inquiry Approach

On the rare occasions that Dave fulfills his responsibilities in a timely manner, it's even more rare that he'll let you, his manager, know about it. He seems reluctant to take on new assignments, and he does not like rules. Clearly, Dave marches to a different drummer. It would be easy to label him a shirker and try to transfer him, demote him or fire him altogether.

You've known Dave for some time and he wasn't always this way. But things have changed at the office; downsizing, reorgs, and increased demands from senior management mean you're all expected to do more with less. As a manager or supervisor with direct reports, you're obligated to speak to Dave about the problem, particularly if it's performance assessment time. Rather than have a confrontational meeting where you present him with a list of no-no's, it might serve both of you to question your beliefs about Dave first.

Download the "Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet" from my website. Per the instructions, put your thoughts about Dave on paper. "I am disappointed in Dave because..." "Dave should/shouldn't..." "I need Dave to..." "Dave is..." Don't be kind, be critical, judgmental, even petty; inwardly this is what you are doing anyway, and no one will see this.

Your thoughts might look like this:

"Dave does not know the meaning of responsibility."
"Dave is not a team player."
"I want Dave to realize times are tough and we all have to do things we don't want to."
"I want Dave to stop reading e-mail at his desk."
"I need Dave to do his share."
"Dave should grow the hell up."
"Dave should not expect the team to cover for him."
"Dave should not leave at 5 on the dot every night."
"Dave should floss after lunch." (Why not? Even if this has nothing directly to do with his job, that's what you noticed, so write it down.)
"Dave is lazy, dishonest, and will never get anywhere in business."
"I don't ever want to deal with another shiftless employee."

Some who are new to this form of self-inquiry will feel relief at this point. Others will feel overwhelmed and exhausted. That's fine; go easy on yourself. Let the worksheet sit for a day if you need to. Then look at it again and perform self-facilitation of The Work. Choose the statements around which you experience the most stress or those which have the most "charge" for you, and ask yourself the four questions:

1. Is it true?
2. Can I absolutely know that it's true?
3. How do I react when I think this thought?
4. Who would I be without this thought?

If it really drives you crazy that Dave leaves at 5 PM when there's a deadline, start with that. Dave should not leave at 5. Is it true? What is the reality of it,? He does leave at 5. That's what's true...and this does not mean that you won't ask him to stay later. But for right now, can you absolutely know that it's true that he ought not leave at 5 PM when there's work to be done? Can you know you'd be happier and that he'd be better off if he did what you wanted? It might be that if you insisted he stay till 6, he'd spend that entire time on the phone or the internet anyway, unless you stood over him. Do you want to stand over him until 6 PM?

How do you react when you think the thought, "Dave should not leave at 5," and you believe it? What goes through your mind at the sight of his empty cubicle at 5:15? Where do your thoughts travel? How do you treat him when he arrives in the morning? When you hand him an assignment? How do you speak about Dave to other team members as a result of thinking this thought? And have you even asked him to stay later?

Where is your proof that it's better to stay past 5? What are your beliefs about that? Are people who work longer hours more committed, more productive? Does his early leave-taking mean that Dave hates his job and has no respect for you? Make a list.

Who would you be without thttp://beta.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifhe thought, "Dave should not leave at 5?" You might be someone less apprehensive about giving a performance review...someone more willing to ask your employees for what you want...a manager who includes your direct reports in your vision for the company or the department. You might be the team player you wanted Dave to be.

Turn the thought around: "Dave should leave at 5." He should because he does...for now. If you can question your thoughts before confronting Dave and meet as a collaborator towards common goals instead of as a disapointment and a burden, there's no telling how he'll respond to that courtesy. He might even return the favor.

(For more about The Work in your profession, visit Clear Life Solutions and subscribe to the Transformational Inquiry newsletter to receive your free report on inquiry in the workplace.)

©2004 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

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