Q: I work in a small company where the owners refuse to do anything about incompetent employees. As a department head, I am not allowed to confront poor performers because the top executives, who are all family members, say they don't want to rock the boat.
To compensate for the slackers, our high-performing employees must constantly take on extra work. Staff morale is terrible and people are beginning to complain about getting burned out, but the owners don't seem to care about that.
I feel completely useless as a manager in this environment, so I'm beginning to wonder if I should look elsewhere. What do you think?
A: You may want to heed the inner voice that says it's time for a job search. The owners of any family business have complete power, so the culture inevitably reflects their personal leadership style. These particular leaders appear to be wimpy managers who are terrified of having difficult discussions.
Unfortunately, many small business owners have had little or no management training, so they lack an understanding of proper performance management techniques. Your bosses may not even realize this is something they need to learn, so criticizing them would be counterproductive.
Instead, if you wish to make one final effort, try appealing to their self-interest. Identify what the owners value most — profits, reputation, morale, or whatever — then paint an extremely clear picture of how your inept employees are damaging those outcomes. Next, present a coaching plan for improving their performance.
But if that approach falls flat, consider looking for a more professionally managed company. This business belongs to the family, and they will run it as they see fit, even if that means running it into the ground.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of Secrets to Winning at Office Politics. Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter officecoach.