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As a project manager I deal with a diverse set of team members that are not under my immediate supervision. By this I mean that I am a project manager, and not a functional supervisor. When I need team members for a project, I pick from a pool of employees with available time. One of my current projects employs approximately 20 team members. One team member specifically has had a few personal hiccups (extreme life events) causing missed work and on some days poor performance. This particular employee, however, is a 9 year veteran of our organization and a superb performer (normally).

The problem comes in when this individual had a conversation with management about some needs and individual consideration. During the conversation, she was continually denied simple requests that were not out of the ordinary. When inquiries were made after explaining the value she provides, it was stated “it doesn’t matter if you’ve been there 1 year or 9.”

Damaging words!

The truth is, it DOES matter. Losing this employee would cause a backlog in development. Not just a backlog of a single person, but it would take two to three people to develop as much as this employee does. The experience and knowledge she has is not interchangeable with just anyone, let alone a new person or someone here for only a year.

This kind of statement WILL destroy workplace morale. This employee then came out, continued her work as normal, but subsequent conversations quickly turned to that statement. Now many employees have heard it, including veterans of 20 plus years. It is no longer a single employee that feels an “inch tall” but an entire department. With current lay-offs, it has everyone looking over their shoulder, including top performing veterans that should have nothing to worry about.

Words like this kill relationships with top employees. These relationships are hard to build up to begin with and are even harder to rebuild once they’ve been told they do not matter. The truth is, they DO matter and so does the experience they bring in. Take care of your top performers and build up your sub-par performers. Who cares if they’ve had a rough year (medical, death in family, or even other personal matter). Be compassionate at the very least. Take care of them and they will take care of you. Don’t let that experience walk out the door over careless words.

Invest in your relationships.

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