polite ultimatum

polite ultimatum

Q:  One of my employees has become a challenge for me as a manager.  He used to be a strong performer and seemed satisfied with his job, but now has become a marginal performer, critical of the company, and all around negative influence.

One of my colleagues suggested I use a management tool she calls “Come to Jesus Meeting” involving a one day suspension.  How does it work and do you recommend it?

A:  The urban dictionary defines the “Come To Jesus” term as  “A time when a polite ultimatum is given, generally followed by a less polite ultimatum, then a threat or final option. ”

In the workplace a revised version of the concept can be used as a management tool.  And yes, I have used it accompanied by a one day (usually paid) suspension, and I DO recommend it -with several caveats.  First let me describe how it works:

You, the manager meet with your employee and say:  “John, you don’t seem happy working here.  We’ve tried to help, but you continue to have a negative outlook and it affects those around you.  I want you stay home tomorrow and give some serious thought about whether you want to keep working here.  It’s okay if you don’t, we can work on a smooth transition that’s mutually beneficial.  If you DO want to keep working here, then these are the changes I need to see right away.  If I don’t see improvement, we’re on our way to a termination.  The choice is yours.”  Or something like that.

Important: Treat the employee with respect and dignity, give him the power of choice. The employee should leave feeling like they almost got fired but it’s completely reversible and it’s up to them to stay or go.  Another advantage of this method is that co workers don’t need to know the absence is a suspension, so the employee saves face no matter what he decides.

Now the caveats.

Choose the right situation – this method works only if the employee is capable of improving and chooses not to.  This is NOT a good method if the employee is inept, poorly trained or simply can’t do the job.

Use sparingly – In 20 years in HR I only used this 3 or 4 times.

Don’t bluff -Use this as a last resort and be prepared to begin terminating process if necessary.

©Copyright Eva Del Rio

Eva Del Rio is creator of HR Box™ – tools for small businesses and startups. Send questions to Eva@evadelrio.com

 

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