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Unsatisfactory Supervisee Behavior
What are the actual facts of the situation?
Don't trust your emotional
recollection of the effects of the behavior - what exactly has been or is being
done improperly? List the offense(s) objectively. If you're in doubt about what
happened, seek out confidential, firsthand observers. Never list what you think:
List what you know.
For instance, don't settle for being told something
like, "Ann was late twice last week in the middle of our busiest selling
season." Dig a little deeper. You might discover that Ann arrived four minutes
late on Thursday and eight minutes late on Friday, but she worked through her
lunch hour both days.
2. What is the specific behavior you
Remember, we aren't discussing attitude. That's not behavior.
If it is an attitude problem, talking about the specific behavior could reveal
it and address it. For instance, addressing poor performance (behavior) by Frank
could reveal his resentment (attitude) over what he considers unfair work assignments.
Explaining assignment rationale and sharing its long-term benefits for the whole
team could help restore acceptable performance levels.
again, be specific about the behavior you want changed. Is changing the behavior
a one-step process, or might it require many steps over a period of time? Will
Frank need short-term productivity goals that you and he review weekly? Will he
need outside training on the processes or equipment critical to his job? Think
3. What open-ended question(s) could create
"Terry, we have a problem with your decision to (name the
behavior). How do you see us resolving it together?" Or, What steps might
we take to make it easier to (state the correct behavior) in the future?"
These are open-ended questions. As you'll learn on the next page, open-ended questions
don't put supervisees on the defensive. They help put both parties on a healing
offensive by encouraging dialogue -because they demand more than a "yes"
or "no" response.
you responsible for this error?||What can you tell me about this problem?|
this step solve the problem?||What can we do to make sure this will solve
|Do you understand what you're supposed to do?||Is
there anything about the job that might still be a little unclear?|
you going to meet the deadline?||What steps would help you meet the deadline?|
you finished the Acme job?||Where are you on the Acme project?|
How can you establish the need for change?
To establish a need for change,
the counselor should show how the specific behavior affects three areas:
o The group
o The organization
Consequences stated in
this way etch the full impact of the behavior in the team member's mind - and
puts the focus on the problem instead of the individual.
I should have finished this manuscript a long time ago, Ellen. You've been more
than patient. I'm sure I can finish it soon now.
Ellen/Coach: Can you give
me an idea how soon that might be?
Mike: Well ... I have to fit in some other
account demand, unfortunately, so ... I'd say three weeks. Maybe four.
If I give you five weeks, would you feel comfortable about committing to a final
Mike: I can't imagine why not.
Ellen: Good. Because after that
date, the department release schedule would be badly affected - which means the
entire organizational publication projection would be thrown off.
the script sound pretty crucial.
Ellen: Right. Missing this deadline would
do more than affect your chances for future scripts. It could hurt the company's
Mike: Then I'd better get busy. Thanks for giving me the whole
5. Who has been assigned responsibility for the problem?
is responsible directly? Indirectly? Include yourself in the latter category,
because it's not just the team member's problem. It's your problem, too - not
just because of organizational policy, but because you have team standards that
won't be compromised.
Many supervisors tend to place the real
concern about the employee's problems or substandard behavior "up the ladder."
They make it seem as if company standards are strictly a top-down issue. That
tendency shows itself in remarks like, "They will come down hard on me if
this continues ... "or "The company expects you to change because ...
." Such an approach may seem to free the counselor from being the "bad
guy" in a confrontation - but it creates three deadly long-term problems:
The employee receives the implied message that you wouldn't object to the behavior
if you were in a position to set a more reasonable policy.
o The behavior will
only become less obvious ... hidden from the unreasonable policy-setters above
... but won't be gone altogether.
o You'll find it almost impossible to expect
compliance from that employee when it comes to future direction, because you look
powerless. Make sure he understands that you own the issues and problems.
How will you help to achieve change?
Answering this one must always mean
a time commitment. Change happens over time. Will change mean returning to mentoring
in some areas? Will it mean involving "referral" agents to more thoroughly
equip the team member? Prepare in advance your commitment alternatives, and remember:
No change is possible without a time investment.
are the minimum standards you will accept?
Decide in advance what standards
are non-negotiable and define them during the counseling session. Such nonnegotiables
(attendance, procedures, work output, relational activities, etc.) should be in
writing ... specific and measurable. If you don't have those formalized guidelines,
you'll find yourself in "agreement" trouble. Know what your minimums
are and why - and at least three ways your team member can accomplish those minimums.
40 hours per workweek
a. 9 am, to 5
p.m., Monday through Friday
b. 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., Monday through Saturday
c. 8 am, to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday
Standard: Meet weekly production
a. Set daily goals
progress and problems with group leader every evening
c. Hire temporary help,
when needed, using money from year-end bonus fund
Standard: Be at work on time
a. Buy new alarm clock or ask co-worker for wakeup
b. Go to bed earlier and/or leave for work earlier
c. Join a department
8. What rewards can and will you give?
rewards aren't bribes. They are not carrots supervisors must dangle in front of
team members before they can expect decent performance. Rewards are important
aspects of performance management, however. We all expect positive consequences
for positive effort - and they doesn't necessarily have to involve money.
are a few examples of the happy little "extras" that will communicate
(1) your appreciation for positive change in employee performance and (2) your
intention to respond positively to such accomplishment in the future.
Use of the company tickets to a sporting event
o Gift certificate to dinner
and/or a movie
o Written or verbal acknowledgment in the presence of peers
o Personal time off
o Extended lunch or break time(s)
Work-related gift (pen, pocket calendar, desk plant, etc.)
o Special outside
o Bonus or salary increase
- Hendricks, William
(ed.), Coaching, Mentoring and Managing, National Press Publications: New Jersey,
Reflection Exercise #7
The preceding section contained information
about eight ways to eliminate unsatisfactory supervisee behavior. Write three
case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Amaro, C. M., Mitchell, T. B., Cordts, K. M. P., Borner, K. B., Frazer, A. L., Garcia, A. M., & Roberts, M. C. (2020). Clarifying supervision expectations: Construction of a clinical supervision contract as a didactic exercise for advanced graduate students. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 14(3), 235–241.
Cook, R. M., McKibben, W. B., & Wind, S. A. (2018). Supervisee perception of power in clinical supervision: The Power Dynamics in Supervision Scale. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 12(3), 188–195.
Danzi, B. A., Tawfik, S. H., Mora Ringle, V. A., & Saez-Flores, E. (2020). Enhancing profession-wide competencies in supervision and assessment: An evaluation of a peer mentorship approach. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 14(3), 176–184.
To establish a need for change, the supervisor should show how the
specific behavior affects which three areas? To select and enter your answer go to .