Even dead wood floats! Dealing with ineffective, long serving managers.

Long service is often heralded within the hospitality industry, and so it should be. The archetypical long serving team member has developed oodles of experience and consistency, has no doubt become a firm favourite with guests, and undoubtedly is woven into the DNA of your business vision, past present and future. Long service however can sometimes become a curse rather than a blessing, more so when managers can sometimes be allowed to drift, in terms of their job description delivery and their overall performance. 

This post looks at addressing long service issues in your business and how you can provide the under performing manager their best chance to remain in your business.

  1. Any manager with a serious of length of service needs to grow as the business grows. This means adapting to new ways of working, understanding technology, managing their people effectively, participating in the business plan, and leading departmental/business growth by example. The Manager represented by 1 is the manager who:
  • Introduces new ideas.
  • Demonstrates a passion for what they do.
  • Takes responsibility and accountability. Never blames others.
  • Fully supports direct reports and senior managers.
  • Engenders a culture of trust and team cooperation.
  • Will have a genuine interest in their career and will nurture the careers of those they manage.
  • Will be able to demonstrate the skills and experience worthy of successive promotions.

2 – 5 For a myriad of reasons a long serving manager may not fully contribute but remains in position. This may be due to:

  • A lack of historical leadership in managing this individual.
  • The business cannot afford to lose whatever skills are provided at the time.
  • This manager is popular and may create excessive churn if they leave. This manager leads a significant clique.
  • The manager has been around so long that he knows too many skeletons in too many cupboards.
  • The opportunity to performance this manager has been ducked to frequently over time.

When the under performing manager reaches 6 then everyone in the business will know the level of under performance being delivered and that in itself can cause further problems. 6 is often achieved when senior management have ignored the under performance for too long. At this point the manager positioned at 6 might actually believe that they are beyond being performance managed. This situation also provides a feedback loop that dictates that this manager is unlikely to be providing any of the attributes the manager at position 1 delivers.  It’s a sizable problem but one that essentially needs dealing with.

You might wonder how it can take an employer 10+ years to work out that someone is not doing a great job. It’s simple really and can be down to one of a number of reasons, none of which you need to feel bad about if the majority of time this manager was employed was on other peoples shifts:

  • A previously good performing manager is now not performing so well.
  • A previously good manager has been over-promoted and as a result is now under performing and increasingly disengaged with their work.
  • Someone with a bit of a bad attitude, but who has gone under the radar for years has now come to the attention of their boss who now believes in managing issues rather than letting them lie.
  • The organisation decides to take a tougher line and come down harder on those who are not performing to the right level.
  • There has been a final straw moment when the employee just pushed the boundaries too far.
  • The manager has exploited difficulties and attention in other areas of the business over a period of time and has been allowed to drift.
  • The manager may have exploited a superior that avoids confrontation, a superior instead that is eternally hopeful (though naive) of a turnaround.
  • Appraisals have been too infrequent.

What next?

A few decisions:

  1. Are we talking about performance or are we talking about misconduct? Performance is something not usually in their control (e.g. over promoted, a role not fitting with their skill sets), whilst misconduct is definitely something in their control. (e.g. bad attitude, bad language, poor work ethic, long lunches, bullying colleagues or belligerence with manager)
  2. Are we at the ‘point of starting to manage them’ or have we reached the ‘point of no return’?
  3. Is there a genuine desire across the senior management team to tackle this issue once and for all or will you start and then stop, if the employee starts to kick back?
    First Step.

What you can’t do if you have someone who has been under performing for years or otherwise getting away with poor behaviour for years is simply ‘hit the wall’ with them. You can’t say ‘my office now’ or ‘here’s your P45’. Tempting that might be sometimes, but you just can’t do it – or at least not without enormous risks!

You also probably shouldn’t just send out a formal letter inviting them to a disciplinary meeting if that is going to completely come out of the blue for them.

Instead your first step is to invite them to an informal meeting that is outside your disciplinary procedures. Within this meeting the full job description needs to be set out along with expectations of role performance. It is important that the job description is agreed. Given that the length of service is exceptional, an exceptional time frame should be agreed so that this manager can demonstrate improvement, and an alignment with the job description. A documented support system should also be outlined so that the business is clearly giving this long serving manager every opportunity to fulfil their role. within the agreed time frame, further meetings should be scheduled to positively recognise growth and to assess the capability of the manager where performance is clearly under performing. 

These conversations are never enjoyable so remain professional at all times. The time for camaraderie has passed, but may return in the future. Ensure that you don’t frame the lack of camaraderie with a loss of trust and confidence. The two are quite different and this should be pointed out.

If the manager ultimately is incapable of the role and the job description delivery, then formal disciplinary proceedings should commence at the end of the support period. This outcome should be set out clearly from the outset, as should the support mechanisms.

When you get to formal disciplinary proceedings, the process will then follow standard employee handbook protocols. 



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