He’s doing his job but…

watch-icon March 12, 2021

He’s doing his job but…

Back when I was finalising a change management qualification, I was talking with the people in the course, and the inevitable conversation about the change resistors came up.

In every change program, there are resistors. This is not new to anyone who’s managed or led change. More often than not, through careful attention, creative strategies and a bit of cajoling, most resistors get on board and get moving.

This conversation was not about them. It was about the other ones. The ones that have been spoken to. Have been cajoled. Have been sweet-talked. Have been shown a new way. Have been everything, and they refuse to change. Yep, refuse.

What happens when you refuse a reasonable request from your employer? Well, under Australia’s industrial laws, that’s called misconduct. This is HR101. Lets park that there for a moment…

So the conversation in Sydney went like this.

Them “Bob won’t change.”

Me “what have you done?”

Them – explains everything they’ve done.

Me “sounds like you’ve given him all the information, resources, skills etc., he needs to change.”

Them “yes, but he’s refusing to change.”

Me “refusing? What have your management done?”

Them “well, we went to HR, and they said because he’s doing his job, there’s nothing we can do…”

Me – stares blankly

Them “HR said he isn’t ‘technically’ doing anything wrong; it’s just poor behaviour.”

Me “What in the actual f…”

I’ll stop there because I have to admit that this pressed my button, and I channelled Deadpool’s R rated communication style for a few moments.

Sadly the reason this pressed my button is because I hear it all too often.

The person’s behaviour is not in line with the company values … or basic human decency … but HR tells the manager, “Sorry, can’t help you.”

A common thing I hear when talking with managers is, “I would like to get rid of ‘Bob’ but he ‘does his job’ it’s just his behaviour that is bad.”

I don’t want to have a go at HR broadly because there are many very good HR professionals who would also be aghast at this exchange. I have been in HR for 20 years, which is why I am horrified by this response from way too many HR people.

Let’s be super clear.

Behaviour IS 50% of the job.

If they aren’t behaving in a way that is required by the business or in line with the values, then they are not “doing their job”.

A job is 50% of what you do and 50% how you do it.

Behaviour = performance.

Yet still, many performance management plans have outcomes at the top and behaviour/values tacked on the bottom, rating people out of 5. Clearly, outcomes are important, and behaviour is … Ummm, a Facebook survey?

Let’s give poor old ‘Bob’ the benefit of the doubt for a moment. Perhaps his behaviour is a symptom of poor systems, or poor management, or poor capabilities etc.

Before you “get rid of bob” because Michelle just said 50% of performance is behaviour and he’s not behaving, work on fixing the circumstances that led to Bob’s poor behaviour.

If Bob’s behaviour still doesn’t improve and he still “refuses” to change. Then bye-bye, Bob*.

You don’t have to put up with someone in your team who is doing the technical part of the job well but isn’t working in a way that is consistent with the values.

Changing your culture, changing your systems, leading, and engaging your staff isn’t just about the fun stuff and the technical stuff.

Having a great business/team is also about managing the tough stuff. Making the tough call. Having a tough conversation.

Don’t be trapped with a Bob. Manage the behaviour like you manage performance, and you will have a business that delivers results, and people love.

*nb – Before you do something silly, blame me for a crappy outcome. Please make sure you use an appropriate process and accept the consequences of your decisions. Get independent legal advice if your HR department isn’t helping you. Also, it might be time to review your HR practices if you aren’t getting the support your business needs, and that’s something we can help you with.

Michelle Holland