Beware the excuse, “I don’t have time!” It is interesting how often these words are said when it is something we find difficult to do. How many times do you use this excuse when it comes to scheduling a time to talk to someone about a subject that is important, but difficult to talk about? Here is an example: You have someone on your team whose performance is mediocre. They show up every day, but they consistently arrive 2 or 3 minutes late. They stay at their work station, but they fail to complete all of their assigned tasks, or they are cool and distant when they interact with other staff or your customers. You know you need to have a conversation, but the excuse you use is, “I don’t have time.” You are probably thinking, “Even though they are not a great performer, they are OK; most of the job is getting done. And if I do talk to them, the conversation could stretch from 15 minutes to an hour or more! And I’ll have to listen to all their stuff. I’m too busy and don’t have time for that!”
Someone once said that we can make excuses or we can make money, but we can’t do both. Let me apply that to making the time for corrective conversations with our team members. You can make excuses or you can have a constructive conversation, but you can’t do both. I was speaking with a manager recently about an employee who wasn’t performing on the job the way the manager hoped they would. As I asked more questions about the situation, a few things became clear. This employee was not given clear instructions or specific job responsibilities. The manager did not express concern when tasks were not completed. The manager was becoming increasingly frustrated by the employee’s behavior, yet they’d never expressed this concern to the employee. The employee wasn’t aware there was a problem. The manager’s excuse – they were busy and didn’t have time to talk to the employee! In retrospect, if the manager had taken time at the beginning of the individual’s employment to set up clear work expectations then met with the employee periodically to review performance, the manager’s dissatisfaction with the employee’s performance would not have come as a surprise to the employee. If the employee continued to be a little late, continued to not complete all the assigned tasks and continued to behave in an unfriendly manner, the manager would be in a position to say, “This isn’t working”, and end the employment relationship. Remember, problems rarely get better with time. Avoid the busy excuse and take action when it is necessary.