Every system that exists needs balance. For our bodies, balance keeps us upright and moving
without falling. Our senses, skin, muscles and joints work together and are constantly communicating to keep in balance. It’s the same for systems of people and that includes your company.
Take accountability, for example. I’ve seen companies where there was virtually no accountability. Employers were just so nice to employees and let them get away with so much. It was playtime at the office and excuses were handed out and swallowed liberally. I’ve seen other companies where everybody was totally stressed and anxious, everybody knew that at the end of the year, when the numbers were tallied up, the bottom ten percent were going to be cut. But who was in the 10%? No one knew so the atmosphere was one of competition instead of collaboration.
Ba-lance people! Bodies need balanced food intake and sleep; emotions need balance; relationships need balance; management needs balance. There are times when accountability is required and there are times when you need to cut people some slack. We are talking about people, after all. One quarter your star sales person might be killing it, raking in the sales, and the next quarter all kinds of things can happen. People have allergies, they have a family member get sick and die, they get divorces and have disagreements with a co-worker. Since the person’s not a robot, you don’t need to assume he’s obsolete, you just need to make decisions based on the real information.
Keeping a company in balance requires paying attention. Too often managers only really check in with employees once a year, during a performance review. But things can get really seriously out of whack in 12 months. If one person’s behavior is off, it can affect a lot of people around that person and create a ripple that’s much harder to come back from than if you caught it when it was small.
Managers need to check in with employees, see how things are going and be able to read the signs of something falling out of balance while they’re still small. If someone is showing up late, looking upset, forgetting deadlines, acting unusual in meetings….check in! Of course you don’t want to invade their privacy but you need them to know that you’ve noticed and you are concerned. And please, don’t make assumptions about why it is happening. Communicate directly with the employee to find out. Ask the why.
At the same time, keep an eye out for how your accountability program is impacting employees, whether it’s having the kind of results you were hoping for or entirely different results. Creating a stressed-out workplace isn’t going to help productivity or profits. People generally feel a lot more comfortable when they know what’s expected of them and they know what kind of response to expect from you. That means communicate often what is expected, not just in the annual performance evaluation, but much more frequently.
Nothing stays in balance for long, so if things go a bit off, that’s just normal. What’s not so great is if it winds up sliding off the cliff before you notice it’s out of whack.
We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.