Last week my wife and I were at a dinner
party hosted by friend who has spent the past twenty-one years in human
resource management. We were having a drink before dinner, swapping work
stories, and so I took the opportunity to pick his brain on a subject I am
currently facing. I asked, “How would you handle a conversation with an
employee that doesn’t seem to want to be with your team anymore?” His answer
was a bit surprising, maybe because I was expecting it to be rather politically
correct, or more sensitive in nature. So, here’s his answer, and this post goes
out to all of the sales managers who face this same situation.
Sit the employee down for a five minute
conversation over a cup of coffee, look them square in the eyes, and ask them, “Do
you enjoy working here?” Then, stop talking, no matter what.
What transpires next will be the
determining factor for the rest of the conversation. If the employee pauses,
looks as though they are pondering their answer, and then begin to speak –
whatever they say is not entirely true. The real answer, at least 9 times out
of 10, will be blurted out unexpectedly. It is human nature when faced with
such a blunt question that the employee doesn’t even realize they are answering
so quickly and honestly. Yes, of course I like working here, why would you even
ask that question? (or) Most of the time, but there have been some things
bothering me lately. (or) No, actually I haven’t been happy in some time.
Whatever the answer is, if it comes
instantly when asked, be prepared as the sales manager to then deal with the
fall out. Keep in mind that if the employee really is happy, you many have now
caused them to wonder why you asked. But, if the employee says most of the time
or no, then you must be diligent in your response – well then why are you still
here? Why don’t you leave?
It may sound harsh, not politically
correct, or too quick to judgement, but it will flesh out exactly what is going
on with the employee. When employees, especially sales people, are unhappy in
general terms of their employment, they become unproductive, but also have a
tendency to bring others down around them. A good sales manager will recognize
this behavior quickly and will resolve to remove this person before too much
damage can be done.
As the old saying goes (and I was
reminded of during my conversation) – hire slow, fire fast. And, in some cases,
help an employee recognize when it may be time for them to make a change and