Employees taking shortcuts

How to Deal With an Employee Who Takes Shortcuts

If you’re a manager, you may find yourself with an employee who always seems to be on the lookout for an easy way out. They provide you with estimates when you need exact numbers. They cut and paste important documents that really should be created from scratch. They send an email when they should have picked up the telephone.

Sometimes these are employees genuinely trying to be more efficient, and sometimes they’re just being lazy. Whichever the case, the result can be substandard quality which can have serious repercussions to you and your organization.

Don't blame your employee (yet)

It can be frustrating when an employee seems be focused on doing the absolute minimum, but before pointing fingers at them, make sure they shouldn’t first be pointed at you. In many cases, your employee has no idea they aren’t meeting your expectations. And , in most cases, that happens because you hadn’t really set them in the first place, assuming instead that your employee should simply have read your mind.

Set expectations and standards

One of the most important things to establish as a manager is a clearly communicated set of performance standards for your team.  You need to clearly communicate exactly what you expect and why it is important. That’s the easy part. The hard part, once you’ve done that, is to never allow an exception – not even once.

That may sound a little draconian, but the alternative is to have no performance boundaries at all.

For example: You tell your team that work starts at nine o-clock, and everyone conscientiously shows up at nine. Everyone, that is, except Sam, who can be anywhere from five-to-ten minutes late every day. As a manager, is it worth you taking action over 5-10 minutes? It’s a fair question, and the best way to answer it is to first ask these questions:

  1. Is 9:00 really the starting time for everyone, or is it okay for everyone to now come in 5-10 minutes late? How about 30 minutes? An hour?
  2. How do your other employees start to feel when they are making the effort to come in on time, but there are no consequences for Sam when he doesn’t? How do they feel about you?

This same types of questions apply for any standard you need to set. If there are things that must be done a certain way, you have to stand your ground. You can’t have a ‘flexible standard’ – that is, by definition, an oxymoron.

Set your employees up for success

Having standards is only part of the equation, of course. As a manager, it is your job to make sure that your employees are set up for success. They days of just browbeating employees who aren’t living up to your expectations are (thankfully) long gone.

Why are you employees taking shortcuts? Do they genuinely have too much work to do, and this is the only way they can get things done? Have you provided them with the proper training or tools to be as effective or efficient as he should be in his job? You owe your employees proper direction, appreciation, respect, and the tools to do a good job. Only until you’ve done that, can you fairly begin to apply consequences to their actions.

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