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training to be proactive

By searchy ·
A member of my team has been working extremely hard over the past few months, he is hard working, approachable and always has a good sense of humour. He has not been properly managed - he seems to have developed a purely reactive approach to everything he does.

I want to help him to become more proactive, e.g when relocating an employee from one department to another he will forsee problems with email, new printers, different file shares, different software required, different phone extension number. At the moment he just jumps in at the deep end and fixes whatever problems come up.

He also very rarely finishes a task completely because he doesn't put himself in the shoes of the end user so doesn't antipicate their problems. i.e. he may set up a piecs of software under the admin account without testing it with the users account.

This approach is part of his personality but is really effecting his productivity. I can't trust him to complete a task so constantly have to check up and have also had to resolve issues myself that he has not completed. The majority of IT personnel i've met have an analytical and methodical approach that they naturally apply to tasks such as the above.

Is there a general method to problem solving or that I can try to train him in? or is there any advice anyone can give to help me get the most from this employee?

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Formal performance improvement plan

by In reply to training to be proactive


This is one of the difficult parts of managing people because it takes so much time and effort to turn around. This employee's job involves taking care of a lot of details on his own. Essentially, his work method is severely flawed and is not doing his job well. It will take significant time from someone to coach, teach, and train him out of this.

A big part of his job _IS_ reacting to problems. But, the problem is that he is not preventing problems that he could and should prevent. That should be the focus: Drawing the distinction between the two.

My suggestions:

- Essentially, he is failing to perform. There is no other appropriate way to say it. Effort does not equal results. You appreciate his effort, but his results are not up to par. He must improve. He needs to be on a formal (written) performance improvement plan.

- He deserves complete clear communication so everything should be in writing. This will greatly help him improve if he is willing and able to do so. And, it will be documentation in the unfortunate event you must choose to terminate him.

- Establish with him that he must prevent problems before they happen. The goal is "zero defects" after he makes a change or completes a task. He probably won't understand this at first.

- When problems occur, review each one in detail. Pass judgement on whether that problem should have been caught by him through his work process before the user (customer) caught it for him. Keep statistics.

- From the beginning, there should be a measureable unambiguous performance objective defined and a date for it to be achieved. For example, a maximum of "N" problems per "M" changes by 6 months. The goal should be challenging but reachable for him. It sounds like you should plan on doing it again with him during the during a second period of 6 months (or whatever).

I hope this is helpful to you. Good luck!


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by searchy In reply to Formal performance improv ...

Thanks for your response, this is very helpful. It's reassuring to know that this is not an uncommon problem and that there is a way to try and resolve it. We are currently putting in a help desk system that will ensure he recieves written details of each task - this has the benefits of beaing able to measure performance and generate stats. I'll also communicate with him via email, and I too prefer written communication from other to myself.

Working out the amount of problems that occur because of changes also sounds like a good idea.

Thanks again!

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Oh Lord! Sounds like my perfectionist managers

by Why Me Worry? In reply to Thanks

who expect me to be some superhuman psychic and predict every little thing that can and will go wrong on the network. Granted, some things can be caught early on and prevented from escalating into an all out hellish event, but when you have hundreds of servers to manage, you cannot sit all day long and stare at every console because that simply will not work. Even products like HP Openview, which are supposed to catch SNMP events and alert to potential problems, are not 100% perfect. I can understand that as a manager, you expect more from your employees, but I have had this same dilemma with my own manager who expects me to be Miss Cleo and predict every friggin potential server crash. Some managers simply will never be stasified and expect everything to work 100% and never have problems. As I.T. folks, we can only be proactive after being reactive to prevent such an event from occuring in the future because nobody can predict or forcast what might happen to a particular system, no matter how good one is. I agree that one can be proactive, but you have to have realistic expectations of people and not demand things that are not humanly possible or completely off the wall.

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RZ: Your situation is not the same as SEARCHY's

by In reply to Oh Lord! Sounds like my ...

Hello RZ...

Your situation as you describe it is very different than the one SEARCHY described and I replied to in the following important ways:

- SEARCHY is a caring manager who wants to help this employee perform better: "...I want to help get the most out of a valued employee...." and "...I want to help him to become more proactive..."

- SEARCHY describes an employee who is obviously sloppy: "...he may set up a piece of software under the admin account without testing it with the users account....".

- YOU said your manager expects you to "...predict every friggin potential server crash..." and "...Some managers simply will never be stasified and expect everything to work 100% and never have problems...". SEARCHY did not describe anything resembling this.

- YOU said " have to have realistic expectations of people and not demand things that are not humanly possible or completely off the wall...". What is not humanly possible, unrealistic, or off the wall about checking a software installation using the user's account to be sure it actually works? Not doing so is sloppy and completely unacceptable.

- I said "...there should be a measureable unambiguous performance objective defined..." and "...When problems occur, review each one in detail..." and "...Pass judgement on whether that problem should have been caught by him through his work process before the user (customer) caught it for him...".

This is open, fair, and honest coaching, teaching, and training. If this employee is worth keeping, and I suspect s/he is, this will bring about great improvement and everyone will be happy about it. There is nothing "superhuman" or "psychic" or "Miss Cleo" or "never be satisfied" or "never have problems" or "unrealistic" about it.

As for you, I suspect that you work in a high pressure environment and have very poor management. I suspect there is little coaching, teaching and training and lots of demanding, threatening, imprecise criticism, and unmeasurable informal goals. If true, I'm sorry for that and understand where your poor attitude comes from. You should look for a better job.

Best of luck on your job search!


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Agreed..I just wanted to bring up an example

by Why Me Worry? In reply to RZ: Your situation is not ...

and expose the kinds of managers that people SHOULD NOT become

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But with an attitude thik this one. . . .

by maxwell edison In reply to Oh Lord! Sounds like my ...

....I'd just fire the guy.

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**** retentive managers!

by Why Me Worry? In reply to But with an attitude thik ...

Look at yourself in the mirror if you don't know what I mean. I have no issues with authority figures, but some authority figures, such as managers, think they are "know it alls" and get defensive or offended when their decisions are questioned or their asses are not being kissed by their subordinates. As IT pros', we are not robots or slaves, we are human beings fully capable of reason and logic and our opinions count too, whether or not management likes what we have to say. I will not allow any company or manager to dictate to me how I must carry myself professionally or what "opinions" I should have. If you want mindless employees who will kiss your *** all day and not challenge your authority, I suggest you hire trained chimpanzees instead of human beings to work for you.

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A Suggestion

by bmedlock In reply to Anal retentive managers!

I've been reading a book by Stephen Covey titled 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People'. It's about geing an effective 'leader', whether that be manager or CEO. The first 'habit' is 'Be Proactive'. I suggest you get a copy, read it, and do it. I think the principles found in this book will help you inspire your employee.

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7 Habits. . . . .

by maxwell edison In reply to A Suggestion

You replied to RZ's message, but addressed a manager/boss. RZ complains about managers, but is not one himself, at least not that I've gathered. As a manager/boss, myself, I agree with you 100 percent. In fact, I've even mentioned (and read) that book myself, and on more than one occasion:

Personally, I almost live by those 7 habits, at least I strive to, and urge others to do the same.

But RZ, in my opinion, and from the attitude I've seen him display, is a cocky, know-it-all, smart-*** of an employee who wouldn't know a good manager if he/she came up and bit him in the butt. Read his messages (in multiple discussions) and you see evidence after evidence of how he doesn't apply any semblance of those 7-Habits. And he's the kind of guy who might read Covey's 7-Habits, but would think how other people could use the advice, not applying it to himself. My advice to him is to read the book, apply the habits to his own way of thinking, and shed the stinkin' thinkin' attitude.

I've had a few "RZs" come through my department, and they're all the same -- the complainers and negative thinkers who try to spread their poison; the "know-more-than-everybody" attitudes, but who always seem to wallow in mediocrity; the "don't expect too much from me" people who always think that giving 110 percent is tantamount to being dumped on; the "me-first" and company second people, and the back-stabbers who always seem to resent other people's efforts.

But then I've had scores of the others. I can't begin to tell you how many people have come and gone from my department, not because they were moved out, but because they were moved up. My job, in many ways, is to help them excel and advance within the company, I'm a manager and a trainer -- and I do a pretty good job. I hire a lot of young people right out of school, and I'd say that 9 of 10 people who have worked for me over the years have either been promoted and moved up in the company (with my urging), have grown and moved on (and up) with another company, or have been content to stay where they are, just doing what they love doing, not really wanting to advance. I treat them all with the utmost respect, help facilitate their goals and aspirations, and help with both their technical growth as well as their personal/motivational growth.

But then there's always the 1 out of 10 "RZs". I don't waste my time on such people. It's not fair to the other 9.

RZ, some advice for you: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

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7 habits

by j.lupo In reply to A Suggestion

Yes that is one of the really good books. Of course I like Bennis for a lot of leadership information along with Max Dupree and a lot of others. Has anyone read S. Collins "Good to Great"? Interesting book.

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