In the November 8th issue of Astronology®, we addressed the topic of what to do when you have an employee that is willing but unable to perform his or her job functions. But what if you have the opposite situation? An employee that is perfectly able, yet unwilling, to complete his or her job responsibilities can be just as detrimental to a productive and happy work environment.
While a resume can tell you about a candidate’s work history and education, it does not reveal their personal work ethic. Unfortunately, it’s typically after the initial interview when an employer realizes that the new employee is far from conscientious and hard working. While the focus in hiring is typically on hard skills, more and more employers are realizing that ultimate success may depend on a candidate’s personality.
“Obviously, it’s important to be sure potential employees are smart enough to do the job they are applying for, but intelligence on its own is not enough to ensure success,” explained Michael Mount, PhD, a research professor at the University of Iowa School of Business in the HR.com article, “The ‘Will Do’ Factor: When Skills Are Not Enough.” “Intelligence tests only tell you if a person ‘can do’ a job, but you also need to know if they ‘will do’ a job.”
“Unfortunately, you can’t teach someone reliability, ethical behavior, motivation, or a ‘can do’ attitude. Those factors come from within the person, often out of the control of the employer. Taking the time to hire a candidate based on a combination of not only skill, but also an assessment of these traits, is imperative to decreasing turnover,” said Jennifer C. Loftus, SPHR, CCP, CBP, GRP, National Director, Astron Solutions.
The first step to ensure that you are hiring conscientious employees is refocusing your interview questions. Behavior-based interviewing consists of questions that draw responses based on a candidate’s real life experiences rather than fictitious scenarios. As author Carolyn Hirschman noted in the HR Magazine article, “Playing the High Stakes Game,” “Soft skills usually are best revealed in interviews. That means a good HR practitioner has to be a proficient detective who asks the kind of questions that get applicants to open up and reveal their good and bad workplace characteristics.”
Examples of effective behavior-based interview questions include the following:
- “Discuss a time when your integrity was challenged. How did you handle it?”
- “Do you consider yourself a risk taker? Describe a situation in which you had to take a risk.”
- “What job was the most frustrating and why?”
- “Tell me a time when you had to work on a project that didn”t work out the way it should have. What did you do?”
- “What is the most difficult decision you”ve had to make? How did you arrive at your decision?”
You can view a comprehensive list of sample questions at the SHRM website.
If it appears that you have an unwilling employee among your staff, be prepared to address the situation immediately. Keep the conversation professional, avoiding what could be construed as personal attacks, and be sure to listen to what they have to say. Perhaps the employee has difficulty approaching new projects or has work issues with a co-worker or manager. Once the cause is determined, outline the necessary steps to remedy the situation. Follow-up to be sure that progress is being made.
Be aware that other factors may apply when it comes to an employee’s negative behavior. Without infringing on employee privacy rights, investigate the possibility of non-work related problems that could be affecting the employee’s work, such as depression, illness, marital or family issues, and substance abuse. Let the employee know about your organization’s available assistance programs. Getting the right help enables your employee to weather the storm, and ultimately succeed in the workplace.
Of course, if there are no extenuating circumstances, and no amount of discussion has improved the employee’s behavior, it may be time to consider termination. Like the saying “one bad apple can spoil the bunch,” it takes just one employee with a bad attitude to quickly poison a workplace environment. Don’t let that environment be yours.