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How to Handle Staff Problems

If you are having trouble with a member of staff, this article will show you the six possible strategies for dealing with the situation. A case study is used to help explain the different options.

If you are having trouble with a member of staff who is not achieving the performance you expect in spite of being highly qualified, the problem is usually one of motivation. With the help of a case study we will show you six possible strategies for talking to your subordinates about any motivational problems they might be experiencing.

Case Study

You are the new manager of a regional office that employs 15 staff. The office is fully stretched with work but understaffed. After some time you realise that one of your team, John, who has been working at the office for two years as an administrator, often fails to take phone calls. You have already had a few customer complaints because of this.  What would you do?

Strategy 1:  The polite request

With this method you clothe your displeasure in a polite request. You ask John in a friendly tone of voice to start giving his incoming phone calls an immediate response, and you then explain why you attach so much importance to this. You might say, ‘John, I’d be much obliged if you could start picking up the receiver before it’s rung for the fourth time. It’s very important for our business reputation that customers should be served promptly. Thank you for you cooperation.’

Strategy 2:  Praise for conduct

In this case you should watch John and, when he does for once lift the receiver straight away, you should use the opportunity to praise him and express your appreciation. Wait until the call is over and then say to him, ‘I think it’s really great when you pick the receiver up at once. You know, it’s extremely important that our customers should feel we’re available at any time. I appreciate something like that.’ Try not to sound patronising.

Strategy 3:  Put your foot down

This technique demands that you tell John in no uncertain terms to start accepting his calls at once. Say to him, ‘John, I expect you to pick up the receiver before it’s rung for the fourth time. Have you understood me?’

Strategy 4:  Sandwich method

The sandwich method is a combination of praise, criticism and praise. Call John into your office for a talk and proceed as follows, ‘I’m very pleased with the way you look after customers. You really are doing good work. But I’d also like to point out how important it is to answer incoming phone calls straight away. Our business reputation is founded on rapid service to customers. Please see to it that our customers don’t have to hang on the phone for an unnecessarily long time. Thank you for this friendly talk, and keep on working with the same success in future.’

Strategy 5:   A joint attempt to solve the problem

Try and tackle the problem together. Tell John that some complaints have been received from customers about unanswered telephone calls, and ask him whether he might not know a solution. Explain to him, ‘We’ve got a customer service problem here which you might be able to help me with. Two customers have rung up my office in the last few days and complained that they had rung your number several times, but nobody came to the phone. What might we be able to do about this?’

Strategy 6:  Analysis of the causes

In this case you ask John whether he has any job-related problems. He may possibly mention that business with the phone of his own accord.  If not, you should bring the conversation round to it and try to find out the real reasons for this unacceptable conduct. Endeavour to take joint remedial action by eliminating the causes.  Your conversation could run like this, ‘John, have you got a moment to spare? I wanted to find out how you’re getting on. Have you got any problems?’ 

Should John not mention the telephone, say, ‘I’ve noticed that you don’t always answer your incoming phone calls. I’m sure there are good reasons, but perhaps you could briefly explain what they are. Then we might be able to change this situation together.’

This technique will help to unearth the cause. It might be down to John lacking in confidence or lacking in product knowledge leading to him not wanting to answer the phone. It could therefore highlight a training or staff development need. He might not like answering the phone and therefore you need to make sure he does speak to people and customers over the phone so that he becomes used to it and therefore sees it as part of the normal working day. You may have to practice with him and work through the typical scenarios and how to deal with them. Another good way is to let him listen in on your, or a colleague’s calls so that he becomes familiar with how to deal with customers.

Whatever strategy you decide on, remember do not let the problem rest for too longArticle Search, otherwise you will develop an aggressive impulse which will come to the surface even if you do not express it verbally. Annoyance and anger are not likely to solve staff problems. Good management as taught on any good management training course is essential to achieve high standards from staff.

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