Second chances

Posted by jlubans on May 15, 2018

Caption: Image from Dave’s Killer Bread

I’ve been thinking about second chances.
If a plumber does a bad job on fixing a leaky toilet, do you give him a second chance on repairing a drippy showerhead?
If a newbie employee declares his job “boring”, do you keep him on and tacitly hope he will come around?
If a senior administrator is out-of-sync with a new leader, does the new leader give that person a second chance or does she tell him he no longer has a role in the organization?
Most of us support giving people a second chance. It’s an American value. It’s also Christian to do so, to forgive and to move on.
When someone fails to forgive – nurses a grievance - there may be more harm to the unforgiving than to the one in need of a second chance.
Whatever the source or influence, second chances are an accepted part of organizational life.
But, those second chances can go wrong when, for example, we do not explain to the employee why this is a second chance and what needs changing, spelling out the perceived shortcomings and necessary improvements.
Ignoring an employee’s mistakes is not giving someone a second chance.
Keeping silent about performance issues is not giving a person the opportunity to change for the better.
I sometimes use case studies in my workshops. One approach I take is for small groups to read and discuss the basis of a disciplinary hearing between an employee and employer.
The boss has over time lost confidence in the employee through her constant whining and complaining.
However the explanation for his loss of confidence is not made clear until the hearing. The employee professes shock at the boss’ perception. Invariably, my workshop participants take the side of the employee; the boss has clearly failed to guide and counsel the employee.
Indeed, every workshop participant professes he or she would have taken the employee aside for a heart-to-heart talk.
Well, I hope so.
That said, does the negative employee get a second chance? The workshoppers say resoundingly Aye!
But, there’s less sympathy for the boss! He’s obviously at fault, etc.
I say that because one feature of American organizational life is our avoidance of uncomfortable conversations.
Many of us - not all - will accommodate, avoid and, at most, silently compromise rather than to address problematic behavior clearly and directly.
That complicates the giving of second chances.

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© Copyright John Lubans 2018

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