Beware Excuses

In my most recent top tip I talked about using AID as a framework to deliver feedback or difficult message. One thing you will need to watch out for are excuses masquerading as justifiable reasons.

Let’s say we have made that bold step to intervene. We have sat down with the under or poor performing individual and outlined the performance issue.  The next step from this point is absolutely crucial.  It would be very common for the subject of the conversation to justify how they are performing by placing the blame on a number of external factors that are “out of their control”.  Here’s a typical exchange to illustrate this:-

“John, I have noticed that you are arriving for work anytime between 0915 and 0930 on a regular basis. Our business start time is 0845 and you arriving late sets a bad example to other staff members. What is happening because I need you to be arriving in good time.”

“Well it’s not my intention to be late but they’ve recently commenced major road works between my house and work and every day these cause huge traffic jams which make me late”

It’s a very normal response to criticism to take a defensive stance or “victim” type role. You only have to think about home life conversations that take place between partners or between parents and children. I’d suggest for many (and of course it couldn’t possibly be ourselves could it!) these are all too common.

We need to find a way to switch this around. Individuals need to take ownership for their own actions (or inactions!). Whilst uncontrollable external factors can of course have an impact on performance. However there are still controllable choices that can be made to remove or mitigate such impact.

A top tip is to use the “choose” word within the AID framework. In the above example the Manager could reinforce the I and D of AID by responding:-

“John, its unacceptable (to the organisation/to me) for you to be late to work. I appreciate that you cannot control the traffic but you can choose to change some things that are in your control such that you arrive on time. I would like you to think about what you can do to ensure you arrive on time from now on”.

Notice that the responsibility for identifying the options and then making a better choice remains with John. As the manager you can offer support and guidance but don’t lose sight of who it is who has ‘chosen’ not to perform to the required standard.