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How do I Get Someone to Agree to Change and Correct a Problem?

Begin by writing down a clear and unarguable statement of the difference between desired performance and actual performance. If you can’t write down exactly what you want and exactly what the employee is doing that concerns you, there is no way that you can get the individual to agree to change.

Next, simply ask for the agreement to change. Say, ‘‘Margie, I need for you to agree that in the future you will spend all of your work time doing your assigned projects and that you’ll let me know when you’ve finished so that you can immediately get to work on the next project. May I have your agreement?’’

It’s difficult for a person not to agree, since all you are asking for is that the individual agree to do what she is being paid to do.

Tell Me More

From time to time you may get a response that the expected performance really isn’t all that important or that the manager is being unreasonable. That’s why, as part of your preparation, it’s good to write down a list of the good business reasons that the problem must be solved. If Margie responds, ‘‘Oh, it’s no big deal. Everybody does personal stuff from time to time. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill,’’ the well-prepared manager can comfortably respond, ‘‘Actually, Margie, that’s not true. It is important . . . let me tell you why. When others see you doing personal business, they feel that they can do the same thing, or they may resent you for making them work harder since you’re working less.

If customers come by and see you reading a magazine, they’ll wonder about what kind of employees we hire here. Every minute that you spend on your personal affairs is a minute that is not being spent on company business, so we’re paying for something that we’re not getting. That’s why it’s important for you to agree that you’ll always work on your assigned projects and save personal affairs for your breaks and lunch period. May I have your agreement?’’

Hot Tip

Notice that the manager never made reference to ‘‘I’m the boss; it’s a rule’’ when she responded to Margie. Of course, the manager is the boss; of course it is a rule. But the power-and-authority approach won’t be nearly as effective in getting Margie to agree to change as explaining the good business reasons the company has the rule and requesting her agreement.