I’m executive director of a small nonprofit with a total of three employees. I have one employee who works hard and one who does not. However, they like to talk instead of working a bit much. How does one get the point across that although you don’t expect them to keep their noses to the grindstone from the minute they walk in the door to the minute they leave, you do expect them to work most of the day without sounding like a total Grinch?
Well, why don’t you want their noses to the grindstone? And the Grinch is such a fashion icon, I’m not sure why you resist. But, I digress.
What you need to focus on is the outcome of their work–not how they do their work. I, personally, have the attention span of a flea and am frequently doing numerous tasks at once, listening to music and keeping up on Dear Abby, so that I can mock her over here. (Which, I haven’t done for a while, but I probably should.) Someone might think I’m being a slacker, but if you look at the quality and quantity of my work, you’d know that I’m good at what I do. (And only a little bit pompous, but you all knew that.)
Are they working while they are chatting? Well, if you have one good employee who chats and one bad employee who chats, it’s obviously not all a chatting problem. (Although, you didn’t mention your poor third employee who has to listen to their mindless banter…)
What you need to do is set clear expectations and goals, and follow up on those–not necessarily on the chatting. If the bad employee isn’t meeting those expectations, you can have a “chat” with her as well. “Brenda, X and Y didn’t get done and the presentation on Z was somewhat sloppy. What’s the story?”
“Oh, Grinch Boss, I am working so hard and I just can’t get everything done!”
“I’ve noticed you spend a good deal of time talking with Jan. I think that might be interfering with your ability to get things done.”
Brenda won’t like this, by the way, because people don’t like negative feedback. But, being the boss is not about being friends. Really, it’s not. It’s about motivating, developing and getting the job done.
With clear expectations of what work is to be accomplished, Brenda can either rise to the challenge or fail–in the former, great, with the latter–you can (and should) fire her. Without clear expectations, why shouldn’t she chatter away the day? She’s getting paid (her motivation for working), and she assumes you (in your non-Grinchy fashion) are happy.
What you also don’t know is who is instigating the chatting problem. It could be your good performer–she may be a proficient multi-tasker that needs multiple brain stimuli going in order to do a good job–and she may be wearing down on your poor performer. Keep that thought as a definite possibility.