Managing Careless Work

“I just fired one of my Section Leaders!’ Abdul, the recently appointed SVP of a construction company, in Abu Dhabi, told me last week during my monthly coaching phone call. “And what were your reasons?” I asked. “He was making repeated work errors that were unacceptable”.  I couldn't manage the situation any longer as he was becoming a liability to the whole department,” he replied. I listened attentively as he continued, “Carole, do you think I did the right thing?  I am really not sure that I did.”


Not an easy one to answer! We all know how important it is to take remedial action when we see work that is unacceptable but it is not always simple for some individuals to change.    Old habits die hard. Having operated personally in a certain way for years, it is often too difficult for them to change their mindset and way of working. However, such a situation may need to change dramatically when a new senior executive arrives.    


A new SVP can mean that you are faced with an immediate challenge. Either raise your game immediately or accept the fact that you may have to find alternative employment with another company or organization. Neither of these are easy choices but they are ones that need to be addressed.


Diagnosing Sloppy Work

People can submit work that is incomplete or otherwise unsatisfactory, for many different reasons. They may have had insufficient time owing to tight deadlines; they may have poor time-management skills; they may not have fully understood the task they had been given or it is possible they might just be bored with their work.


With all of us, there will be aspects of our jobs that we may not like and, therefore, in which we don't excel. You may be a great communicator and presenter on platform but you may hate the report-writing that goes with the job because it takes you out of your comfort zone.


You may think that a wrong decision was only very small and unlikely to have any major impact because you didn't appreciate the possible importance of it. However, what you may not have seen is the bigger picture and the impact that your mistake could have on an important decision to be taken by others that depended on the accuracy of your work. 


When you think of sloppy work, you might visualize tasks not being performed correctly; documents presented full of errors with no regard given to team goals and objectives and/or the impact of such mistakes upon a third party.  Of course, errors can also be intangible such as inattentive listening to customer/client demands or inappropriate remarks that can damage the credibility of your own organization.


So how can you overcome inappropriate behavior or unacceptable work within your team?



Before you discuss sloppy work with a team member, first examine your own mindset to ensure that you are not just being a perfectionist with targets that are unrealistic. If you are, then any work produced by others may not match your high standards because they might well be unachievable.


Talk to your team member

Making a private comment about work quality may be all that you need to do to encourage this person to improve. Take into consideration that your team member may not realize that there is a potential problem in their work output, so that an initial conversation, handled with sensitivity, might be all that is required to achieve the result you want. It might be useful to enumerate examples of mistakes that have been made and to then confirm that the individual has a full understanding of the standard of work that is expected of them.    Ascertain whether they need help or resources to do the job. Encourage them to use checklists and To-Do Lists to stay on top of tasks, and consider pairing them with a top performer to try and motivate them to get back on track. (Whilst you are doing this, it is important to make sure that you understand and follow your organization's performance management and disciplinary procedures.)


Identify additional resources

It is also important to make sure that there isn’t a training issue that needs to be addressed.  Sometimes, individuals may not be confident enough to ask for additional training and it may be up to you to identify if this is part of the problem. Alternatively, the appointment of a mentor might help to increase standards of quality and performance.


However, if work produced continues to be sub-standard then it may be necessary to give the employee or manager concerned, formal notice of dismissal if there is no improvement within a specified time.    


Sloppy work not only can damage a person's career, but it can also have a negative impact on a team's morale, goals, objectives, and productivity. Careless work can even cause health or safety hazards, and it can affect your organization's reputation, both internally and externally.


Key Points


  • Sub-standard work needs to be addressed
  • Small errors can lead to incorrect decisions
  • Unacceptable output requires management action



Contact Carole to deliver a motivation business presentation at your next Conference or Seminar: 


About  Carole Spiers

Carole Spiers’s credibility is rooted in 20 years success as CEO of a leading UK stress management consultancy, working with equal success both in the UK and the Gulf. She is a world authority on corporate stress and BBC Guest-Broadcaster. Carole is an international motivational speaker, and a weekly Gulf News business columnist. 



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