My moral compass has been tested to its full capacity this week.
There is a lady that I manage (let us call her 'C') who has been under-performing for as long as I can remember. If you take her as an individual then I'm sure you'll have come across worse but when compared to the rest of the department, her work really is abismal in a variety of ways. She is one of those that is capable of flying through work and always does what she is meant to do; no rod of iron needed yet her output is dire. We are constantly having to spot check issues that she has been dealing with and I guess you could say that she is comparable to that call centre agent that we always get through to when dealing with gas, electric etc that you never fully quite have confidence in. C is 'half job Harry' personified.
The biggest problem I have with C however is not her poor work ethic, it is the fact that she is quite possibly one of the kindest, thoughtful and most buoyant of human beings that I have ever had the fortune to encounter - something that made this week unbearable when I was more or less pressured into embarking on formal disciplinary action with her. I'm no fool - I know that she is never going to be able to meet the stringent criteria outlined in her review and I admit, it makes my stomach sink.
I have never had a problem with work. I adore customers, I enjoy resolving escalations, interdepartmental relationships have always come with ease. The one element of my job that just happens to take up the largest portion of my time is the harsher side of people management and it makes my heart tighten when I think about upsetting others. Getting a team on side, the building of trust has always come somewhat naturally but I guess that comes from the fact that I'm not one of these people that finds it easy to treat others unfairly; I can think of almost half a dozen other managers that most definitely aren't cut from the same cloth. Is it a weakness that I'm so uncomfortable when it comes to discipline? I look at other departments that are run in a manner that even Stalin would shy from. I see how everything is managed to precision with a huge output volume yet the teams within despise their management. Don't get me wrong, my guys are highly competent and can also handle high volumes yet we are always chatting, having a laugh and morale seems high in comparison. The only problem is that when it comes to addressing serious capability issues such as with C, it seems unnatural and almost wrong.
I know I have to proceed, no amount of dragging my heals will change that - it is my job and that is what I am paid to do but I've decided on a half way approach. If I give C my full support and do everything in my power to ensure she is up to scratch, the rest is in her hands. It pains me to see and I am trying my hardest not to dwell on possible outcomes but sometimes it is just too tiring when it comes to carrying the weight of others.
As they say you can lead a horse to water, I just hope this one has enough sense to drink.