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How to Manage a Needy Employee

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When John Leslie came up under the tutelage of two master technicians around 25 years ago, he was held to a strict standard.

“They were tough,” Leslie says. “They’d say, ‘I’m going to show you how to do this once or twice, and after the third time, don’t come back to me anymore. By then, you should have this down.’”

Now, with a technician shortage of around 70,000, it’s a bit harder for shop owners to be that strict with an employee who needs extra assistance. However, if you have a needier employee who needs more feedback and help than he or she should, it can cut into you or your other shop manager’s time.

Leslie has been in the industry since 1993, working up as a technician, service advisor and manager, before working as a shop owner for six years. He now works with 80-85 shops per week as an Automotive Training Institute instructor, and has seen shops deal with their fair share of overly needy employees.

Leslie details how a shop owner can handle an employee like this and guide them to make decisions on their own rather than detracting from the rest of the staff.

 

Before any issues come about, your expectations should be laid out in the onboarding process. You should tell new employees, “This is our culture, this is what we live by, this is what’s going to be happening so that everybody’s on the same page.” We have our mission statement, our company fundamentals and standards, and employees all have to be held accountable to that.

Our role in changing behavior is setting expectations for the change, and partnering with them, providing that regular feedback. The biggest thing that I’ve found that’s worked is one-on-one meetings.

Once per month, I have shop owners bring everybody in, sit them down and have a talk with them. This is in addition to having a monthly staff meeting. We check in and ask, what’s going on in your life? How are things going?

When you get into those meetings, then you can pinpoint the issues he or she has in being a needy employee, and figure out why he or she needs so much extra help. You can say, “You know the standards we talked about in orientation, and you’re regressing a little bit.”

If he or she is asking for too much help, maybe he or she is burned out, maybe he or she is working too many hours, or hahas ve too many personal issues. Then we can sit down and come to some type of resolution. If you’re providing that type of communication and hold him or her accountable for expectations set in the onboarding process, then you can have those consistent conversations. That also builds a trust level.

Building your processes and building SOPs as an owner is very important. That way, if he or she has a problem, and this is the third or fourth time he or she has had that problem, he or she can go back to the SOP manual and walk through it themselves. Something like, what is the standard operating procedure for a brake repair?

Then, when he or she comes to me with an issue, I can say, did you go through your SOP manual? Did you follow steps A, B, C, D and E? If not, go back to it, look at step No. 2, and tell me what you found. That way I’m not providing answers for him or her, and he or she is not attached to my hip all day long.

As part of the internal training, you should give positive reinforcement regarding his or her performance if he or she is improving. When he or she does get it, you can say, “Hey, nice job; I knew you could do it!”

If we can’t get past the training issue, and he or she is dropping my efficiencies and productivity, we’re going to have to find someone else. I don’t want to lose the efficiency of a line tech, or an A-level tech, keeping them away from their jobs, as well. It only takes one person to take the culture down.

Start with a verbal warning, and make sure you have all your paperwork for that. If it still doesn’t improve, then say, “I’m sorry, we’re just going to have to let you go.” And sometimes that happens; we aren’t going to get there from here.

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