Carol stormed into her office and tossed the reports onto the pile towering on her desk. The conversation - no, the argument - with the CEO still played out in her mind.
“Steve,” she said, “he was just a new hire. Maybe we put too much --”
“That’s enough,” Steve cut in. “No more excuses. Without a doubt, you’re the best operations manager this company’s ever had, but your staff are falling short. I don’t know whether it’s who you employ, how they’re trained, or what their attitudes are that’s causing the poor quality. I don’t care about the reasons. These quality problems have to be addressed once and for all. Got it?”
“Got it,” Carol said to herself, now in the silence of her office. She felt drained, worn out, weary. She wondered how many warnings Steve had left to give her. The employees she’d brought on board were in trouble, and so she was in trouble too.
Carol settled back in her chair and lifted her pen, twirling and clicking it while she mentally reviewed her staff. Who was slacking? What led to the decline?
“Four times in four weeks,” she heard herself say. Mistakes and failures, ranging from missed deadlines, incorrect or incomplete billings, faulty delivery instructions, mishandled phone calls, and more. And now, because of the compounding troubles, one of the company’s top clients had their processes collapse for the second time this month.
Steve had not been happy. Her staff had dropped the ball, and the client had missed a shipping deadline. Carol had committed her whole morning to pulling some strings and calling in favors. Even though she had sorted things out, the shipment was left on the wharf anyway because of glaring flaws in the documentation.
“It’s James.” She brought the pen down, tapping it furiously on the desk. “What’s the actual issue here? He’s new... But he came with great recommendations, qualifications, and he certainly seems capable enough. Is our training no good?”
Tap, tap, tap. Carol’s thoughts turned to Jo, and how this other new hire had seriously underperformed the previous week. “Hired her a couple of years ago. Lowered our sights a bit to save wages costs. Jo’s not a rocket scientist, but her role is pretty straight-forward. And she’s usually reliable.”
And, of course, there was Chris. Carol said, “He’s usually reliable too, though he’s dropped a ball or two in the last few weeks. So what is it?” She considered the possible answers, tapping her pen point-by-point. “Staff selection? Training? Attitude? Motivation? Do we have enough staff? Do we have the right staff? Do they get appropriate support?” Tap, tap…
Carol dropped her pen on the pile of paperwork. This is ridiculous, she thought. Not only am I talking to myself, I’m just going down a list, one-by-one, of what I already know. Every employee has strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes they compensate, sometimes they compound. Instead of criticizing individuals, I should consider the whole. Our whole department. Maybe our processes are too complicated. Maybe we feel too rushed? Maybe we’re too…
“That’s it,” she exclaimed, straightening in her chair. “What do we all have in common? Stress. We’re all stressed. We are under pressure to provide more and more services and our staff are overloaded.”
“But, I can’t fix that without more staff and Steve won’t approve more staff…”