How to Handle Ineptitude
Ineptitude is a difficult issue to combat because there are, obviously, different levels of ineptitude. They range from someone who is selectively disinterested in a specific task (I would argue this is the most frequent), all the way to completely dysfunctional. In the case of the latter, expedient dismissal is the best option. That being said, dismissal is a difficult issue to work with based upon your own organization’s policies regarding termination, and so, I won’t go into detail beyond documentation and getting them out as soon as is practical.
In the case of selective disinterest in certain pieces, however, there are some things you can do to help them to integrate more effectively into the team.
- When you first notice their lack of interest, and subsequent failure to complete their task in a timely fashion, take them aside and speak to them about what problems they are encountering. This should be an exploratory meeting rather than a disciplinary one. Start with your assumptions and facts that you see, and then probe them about the reasons for failing to meet expectations.
- Based upon the interview, discuss with them how to remedy the problems. This should include mutually agreed-to milestones and timeframes that must be hit.
- If the reason for their lack of completion includes a “lack of knowledge” in any particular area, take it upon yourself to contact your fellow managers (or even individuals in your team) to mentor them in that particular knowledge area.
- If you find that there are no reasons that seem acceptable to you for their failing, explain to them why the task is an important one. Who will be affected by the delay? Why is this piece important to the successful completion of the project on time? If they don’t seem to be understanding, give them the cost of failure in monetary terms. When someone is informed that their tardiness will result in a $15,0000 additional cost, they tend to pay attention.
- Constant vigilance is something you will need to learn to adopt. Not necessarily to the micromanaging level, but at least enough to ensure that they can and will stay on target. Sometimes, external motivation is a good kick in the pants, and if the apathy is temporary, or project specific, can be a useful tool to get it done in the short term.
You, as a manager, need to understand your employees. This is not only how they work, but also what motivates their actions and what is important to them. By meeting with them on a regular basis, you increase the amount of understanding you have about their inner workings. Additionally, by making frequent contacts with them, they start to see that you are actually interested and invested in the process they are working on. If you’re interested, it tends to rub off onto others under your employ.
Your job is to determine how their motivations are manifested. In an isolated incident, a simple hand holding session to get this particular job done is fine, but if the behavior becomes normal and almost second-nature, there is either something wrong with YOUR leadership style (I know, most don’t want to hear that), or perhaps that they are merely in the wrong situation. If they’re in the wrong situation (you need to do your own soul searching to find out if that is the case or not), then the time has come to move them into another position/department, or merely release them to pursue other opportunities that would be of more interest to them.
Any other thoughts from my readers? What do you do with subordinates who don’t show interest in their work? Are there strategies you have discovered that you can utilize to motivate them beyond money?