Find the Bright Spot

The Problem: You’re supervising an employee who frequently makes mistakes. You’ve corrected the errors  yourself, sent them back to be fixed, provided additional training, and imposed progressive discipline. Nothing works for more than a week or two. You don’t want to fire the employee, but this is giving you heartburn.

The Solution:  In late March, my blog partner (co-blogger?) Daphne wrote a post recommending a book named “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” by Chip and Dan Heath. I myself just read the book and found it immensely interesting and useful for those of us in the world of  employee relations.

One of the (many) approaches outlined in the book is find the “bright spot,” i.e., find what is working and replicate it.  One example given in the book involves a student who constantly engages in bad behaviors. A school psychologist discovers that in the one class where the student behaves the best, the teacher (1) greets the student when he comes in the door; (2) gives him slightly easier assignments to take into account his learning disability; and (3) makes sure that he understands the assignment.

One approach is to find out in what circumstances the employee doesn’t make mistakes.

The psychologist then went to each of the student’s teachers and suggested that they do these same things. They did. The results? The student’s bad behavior referrals went down enormously.

This approach could work well with our error-prone employee. Find out in what circumstances the employee doesn’t make mistakes: is the employee’s work better early in the day, when the office is quieter, when the instructions are in writing, when … ? Using the bright spots approach, you can work with the employee to replicate these circumstances. Some real improvement may result.

Looking for the bright spots could be an approach to address all sorts of workplace problems. It’s not hard to do and who knows, it could work! ~AS

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