Author Topic: Have to make an unpleasant recommendation (sorry, long)  (Read 6521 times)

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GreenEyedHawk

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Have to make an unpleasant recommendation (sorry, long)
« on: March 23, 2013, 11:51:14 PM »
I know I've posted in the past about my assistant/co-worker, M, and how she is not learning the job.

{long b/g}  I apologise for the long and detailed background length, but I need to show why I really have no other choice but to make the decision I have to make.

At this point, it's now been two years, nearly, and she has still not picked up what would be considered the basic rudiments of this job.  It used to be when I would see her making a mistake, I'd correct it or make suggestions and she would repeatedly assure me she understood.  Now she argues with me. 

See, our job is to measure stuff.  We measure all the parts that go into building an integral part of a safety device that is mandatory in a lot of machinery in a lot of industries.  If we let something go that we shouldn't, and a system fails, people can die.  This is Serious Business.

In addition to being the Quality Control supervisor, I do a lot of other stuff.  I wear a lot of hats and pick up a lot of slack because, other than the lead hand, I am the only person in the shop who has done every job, from the bottom up.  I've received the parts, inspected the parts, measured the parts, put the parts together into their sub-assemblies, put the sub-assemblies together, tested the final product and packed the thing up to ship out.  I'm also the second most senior person in the shop, so I'm called on to do a lot of extras. 

M wants to learn all this extra stuff as well, and while I certainly don't have a problem with anyone wanting to learn new stuff, she just...can't.  She is a slow learner, and seems to completely lack the ability to figure things out.  For example, we have these long cables that go with a certain model of device.  They come in 10, 20 and 30-foot lengths.  They come loose in a box and one of the jobs that both she and I have done is to  twist them into coils.  Enough that I can safely say she has handled hundreds of these things.  She also knows that we have nothing else in the shop that even remotely reaches those dimensions in size.  If that were all the knowledge you had to work with, if you saw something on a shipping order that read "20' xxx kit", you'd probably figure out that a 20-foot cable was what it was referring to.  Not M.  Her words exactly?  "I'd never figure out that that's what it was."  Arrrghhh.  USE YOUR HEAD.  Or, when the order says "Part # XXX-XXXXX 90-degree elbow, casting, 2.5" OD(outside diameter)" and you have a bin labeled with two part numbers and two different elbows and are not sure which is which (one is 2" OD, one's 2.5".  The bin labels say as much.) and you work with hundreds of different high-precision measuring devices, would it not cross your mind to perhaps double-check by measuring to make sure you have the right one?  Not M.  "It never would occur to me to measure them.  I don't even know which one the order needs."  IT SAYS RIGHT ON THE PAPER.  READ.  USE YOUR HEAD.

I've even caught her measuring dimensions on parts that are inconsequential to the point where they're not even shown on the drawing she's measuring against.  What, exactly, is she going to compare the dimension she is measuring against?  When I pointed out that the dimension she was checking isn't even on the drawing, she says, "Well we have to measure everything!"  Well, that's great that you want to be thorough, but that dimension isn't on the drawing.  How do you know it's even right?  How CAN you know it's correct if you don't even know what it's supposed to be?

At this point, she is failing to grasp even the basic skills required of the job.  She can't do inspection well.  She can't build things.  (she has repeatedly forgotten a crucial retaining clip on a certain sub-assembly so that under testing pressure, the person doing the testing has nearly been badly injured by a part getting shot out because it had no retaining clip on).  We have soft hose that we cut to custom lengths; I've shown her several times, as have other people, how to cut it straight, instead of cutting it crooked, then trying to straighten the crooked cut by "trimming" the hose.  Yet I'll see her having cut several pieces of hose crookedly and she is surrounded by a mountain of hose trimmings.   That's quite a bit of wastage.  We keep telling her if she is cutting the hose properly, there is no need for trimming; she keeps insisting it's the end result that matters and her cut pieces are fine.  We keep pointing out how much she wastes a)by trimming and b) because the pieces she has trimmed bits off of are now too short.  She keeps saying it's fine.  IT'S NOT FINE.

We build three different types of trigger systems.  She's built them all (with varying degrees of success) many times.  But she has no idea what the difference is between them (one is manually triggered, one air-pressure-triggered, one electric) or how they work. 

{end very long background}

So Bossman asked me t o fill out her yearly review/recommendation, where I review performance, highlight strengths and weaknesses.  I've done this for a few other co-workers/shop hands and never had any issue...but I've also never had to review anyone whose performance is so consistently poor.  I need help coming up with a way to highlight all the issues I've mentioned above without sounding like I'm attacking every little thing.  These are examples of serious issues.   I need to be very clear on them because unfortunately I have to make the recommendation she be replaced.  The decision ultimately is Bossman's, but he understands that I work more closely with M than anyone else on a day to day basis, and I'm the best qualified to do the review.

I don't know how to word the examples I've given above to make it 100% clear to Bossman that I'm not making the recommendation lightly; that I really honestly feel that she simply cannot work in this environment.  She lacks common sense, rudimentary mechanical understanding, the ability to listen and retain information, the ability to follow directions or the ability to figure things out.  In this kind of work environment, with this kind of product, everything is very high-precision and detail-oriented and she really does not have a head for details.  And honestly, I feel 2 years is plenty of time to learn the ropes.

How can I phrase my review explanations and recommendation without it coming across that M makes me want to tear my hair out on a daily basis, and I can no longer in good conscience say that she is qualified to continue doing this job?
"After all this time?"
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Black Delphinium

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Re: Have to make an unpleasant recommendation (sorry, long)
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2013, 12:07:47 AM »
Specifics-times, dates, pictures if you have them. Hard to take facts as "picking on".

Praise her enthusiasm, if you feel that you can without seeming patronizing.
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reflection5

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Re: Have to make an unpleasant recommendation (sorry, long)
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2013, 12:15:16 AM »
Question:  How is it she has lasted two years being so incompetent?  Not questioning your judgment or the facts presentd; I'm wondering if you complained about her before and if there was a probationary period?

GreenEyedHawk

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Re: Have to make an unpleasant recommendation (sorry, long)
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2013, 12:51:51 AM »
It's ok, reflection5, that's a valid question.

I've given her reviews before, emphasizing strengths and weaknesses and Bossman and I have gone through several plans to help her improve.  I think I mentioned in my post that the ultimate hiring/firing power lays with Bossman, and he is a really nice guy who doesn't like conflict and really wants to make sure everyone gets a fair chance.  It's an admirable quality, but at this point I feel it's time to draw the line and let M go, and I need to make that as clear to Bossman as possible.
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Redsoil

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Re: Have to make an unpleasant recommendation (sorry, long)
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2013, 01:30:59 AM »
In spite of continued support from all members of *team*, *employee X* has failed to show progress in the following areas:

Then list the areas of concern, being quite clinical about performance parameters, with no additional subjective comments.  It's akin to a pass/fail approach.  Employee is unable to__________  Employee failed to ____________   

Even if you make a list of basic competencies for this job, and have a table where you tick a box for various "grades" - competent/adequate/poor/safety concern (or somesuch).  Keep it very very clinical, make it about efficiency and safety.  If, at the end you can note some basic comments, keep them short and to the point.  Then talk to the boss, giving him a little more background if needed, and voicing your concerns, the help given, and the fact that this person is simply not well suited for this type of work.  Not all people are.

Good luck with it!
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kudeebee

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Re: Have to make an unpleasant recommendation (sorry, long)
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2013, 01:37:48 AM »
You need to use what you have told us and modify it so that it only includes the facts and not your emotions/etc.

Example: 
You said:  Or, when the order says "Part # XXX-XXXXX 90-degree elbow, casting, 2.5" OD(outside diameter)" and you have a bin labeled with two part numbers and two different elbows and are not sure which is which (one is 2" OD, one's 2.5".  The bin labels say as much.) and you work with hundreds of different high-precision measuring devices, would it not cross your mind to perhaps double-check by measuring to make sure you have the right one?  Not M.  "It never would occur to me to measure them.  I don't even know which one the order needs."  IT SAYS RIGHT ON THE PAPER.  READ.  USE YOUR HEAD.

You write:
An order says "Part # XXX-XXXXX 90-degree elbow, casting, 2.5" OD(outside diameter)".  We have a bin labeled with two different part numbers and it contains two different elbows--one is 2" OD, one's 2.5" OD (which the  bin labels state). M cannot select the right part  without getting help.  She has told me  "It never would occur to me to measure them.  I don't even know which one the order needs."  She cannot read the part order on the paper and select the right one; she does not think to measure them to select the right one.  So someone else must step in and do this part of her job.

WillyNilly

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Re: Have to make an unpleasant recommendation (sorry, long)
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2013, 03:07:03 AM »
Is there anyway you can compute the cost of her mistakes?  Like if she averages 6 inches of waste when trimming hose, and averages over trimming 1 hose a week at XX long that comes to how much of a financial loss? Same with the retaining clip - what was the cost of the part breaking during testing and needing to be replaced/repaired? Often putting dollar amounts in black and white is a powerful tool. It moves the situation from one of the boss being nice and realizing this is a money matter.

katycoo

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Re: Have to make an unpleasant recommendation (sorry, long)
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2013, 03:56:20 AM »
Divide her performance into issues.

Issue 1:  Overview of issue, x2 examples.  What steps you've taken.  Current position (ie no change? Partial change). Current attitude or coworker regarding issue.

Repeat until all issues covered.

If you decide not to include them all on the report, note that examples are not exhaustive and further examples can be provided if needed.

I think its really important to mention her attitude.  She no longer wants to change, which is a problem.

Slartibartfast

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Re: Have to make an unpleasant recommendation (sorry, long)
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2013, 04:28:36 AM »
Honestly, I would talk to Bossman first and let him know you're recommending she be replaced.  Companies often feel the need to perform CYA maneuvers in situations like this, so Bossman might have a better idea what the company does and does not want on paper - and what's most likely to lead to him being able to let this employee go quickly.  It may just be needing things worded a certain way - "She can't read the label to differentiate between a 2" part and a 2.5" part" could be vulnerable to her getting a lawyer who says "She's dyslexic and you're discriminating!" whereas "She needs constant reminders to stay on task and refuses to ask for help when she's confused, such as when faced with an order for a 2" part and two boxes, one which has 2" parts and one which has 2.5" parts" might be more defensible.  (IANAL, obviously, so that's just a random example off the top of my head.)

Talking to Bossman in person first will also give you a chance to see whether he needs to be convinced, and if so, what kinds of things you need to emphasize.  If he's inclined to be lenient on her being slow to pick up new things, for example, you can focus on her unwillingness to accept constructive criticism and her unwillingness to ask for help instead.

menley

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Re: Have to make an unpleasant recommendation (sorry, long)
« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2013, 07:20:38 AM »
Honestly, I would talk to Bossman first and let him know you're recommending she be replaced.  Companies often feel the need to perform CYA maneuvers in situations like this, so Bossman might have a better idea what the company does and does not want on paper - and what's most likely to lead to him being able to let this employee go quickly.  It may just be needing things worded a certain way - "She can't read the label to differentiate between a 2" part and a 2.5" part" could be vulnerable to her getting a lawyer who says "She's dyslexic and you're discriminating!" whereas "She needs constant reminders to stay on task and refuses to ask for help when she's confused, such as when faced with an order for a 2" part and two boxes, one which has 2" parts and one which has 2.5" parts" might be more defensible.  (IANAL, obviously, so that's just a random example off the top of my head.)

Talking to Bossman in person first will also give you a chance to see whether he needs to be convinced, and if so, what kinds of things you need to emphasize.  If he's inclined to be lenient on her being slow to pick up new things, for example, you can focus on her unwillingness to accept constructive criticism and her unwillingness to ask for help instead.

I absolutely agree with this. I once had an employee that was performing very poorly, and I had to discuss it with my manager as I was planning on writing a poor review for him. What I initially intended to go in the review, versus what made it into the review, was quite different based on legal ramifications and a discussion with our human resources group.

Overall, as others said, I would cite specific examples. For instance, you mention that she fails to put a retaining clip on a product, leading to potential injuries. Have any injuries resulted that were, perhaps, OSHA reportable incidents? If so, documenting that might be wise. Discuss with your boss the exact loss of time (don't say hours and hours, which sounds emotional or exaggerating, but specifically, "Because employee X could not perform this task properly, I had to spend x minutes reworking it each time, for a total of x hours of productivity lost.")   

YummyMummy66

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Re: Have to make an unpleasant recommendation (sorry, long)
« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2013, 09:27:42 AM »
It's ok, reflection5, that's a valid question.

I've given her reviews before, emphasizing strengths and weaknesses and Bossman and I have gone through several plans to help her improve.  I think I mentioned in my post that the ultimate hiring/firing power lays with Bossman, and he is a really nice guy who doesn't like conflict and really wants to make sure everyone gets a fair chance.  It's an admirable quality, but at this point I feel it's time to draw the line and let M go, and I need to make that as clear to Bossman as possible.

Right there is your answer.  You have given her reviews and gone through several plans for her to improve upon and clearly she has not done so.   As for Bossman, I would tell them that after two years, you have had enough.  You have done everything that you possibly can to help this woman and it has clearly not worked. If he wishes to keep her on, than her work will rest on his shoulders from now on.  I bet she is gone by the end of the day.

GreenEyedHawk

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Re: Have to make an unpleasant recommendation (sorry, long)
« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2013, 11:23:38 AM »
You all have definitely given me a lot to consider, with my wording and what's important to bring up and what's just my emotional response because as YummyMummy says, after two years I have definitely had enough.

We had a large order that went out on Friday and it was going to a reseller, which means each item has to be packed a certain way, individually, and labelled a certain way so its part and model number and the machinery it's meant for is readily visible from the reseller's shelf.  Again, there are a lot of details that seem trivial but are actually important.  Another co-worker, D, and I had started packing a smaller order and were just finishing up when M came wandering over, ostensibly to see if D and I "needed any help".  "No," I told her, "We're fine."  She asks me if I am coming back to the QC area after the small order is done and I say, "No, not for awhile.  I'm staying in Shipping, D needs my help.  Why, do you have a question about something?"  Her response, which was in a vague sort of tone, "Oh...no...I just wanted to see if you guys needed a hand and I could learn this stuff too."  A thousand times no.  When there's a massive order that needs to be packed fast, the last thing we need is someone underfoot who doesn't know what they're doing, who is asking questions and getting lost and mixing things up.  Slow time is a good time to learn shipping because the learner can be walked through it step by step and there's no hurry, but when an entire skid of stuff has to be ready to go in an hour?  No.  Absolutely not.

D and I are furiously working and things are going smoothly; he and I work well together, particularly with shipping.  We've devised an efficient system for two people working together.  And yet it seemed like every time I turned around, I was tripping over M or bumping into M or rescuing my paperwork from M, because she "Wanted to learn how to do this too!"  I admit at this point it took a lot of willpower not to shout at her to go back to QC and stay there.  I firmly told her that this was not a good time for learning and that we'd go over it when things weren't quite such a rush, and that some parts had come back from some of our suppliers (we send them material, they machine it and send it back) that needed inspected because the other guys were waiting on the parts so they could finish the stuff for another large order that was coming up right after this one.  She wandered back to her area and not ten minutes later was back again.

Look, I get that she is bored with QC.  QC is boring.  But that is her job and she needs to go there and stay there unless J (the lead hand) or I tell her otherwise.  When I started learning positions other than QC, I didn't just shoulder my way in and demand to learn; I asked Bossman for more challenging duties and was ASKED to take on the new stuff, which is the proper channel to go through.  I get that it must look to her that I get to do whatever I want, but all the things I do and jumping from area to area is legitimately part of my job.  Add to that toe fact that it's hard for me to go from station to station with the constant concern that she needs to be babysat, and I really feel that with her 'assisting' me, I can't even remotely make efficient use of my time.
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JenJay

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Re: Have to make an unpleasant recommendation (sorry, long)
« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2013, 11:31:41 AM »
I don't have any advice on her eval, but as far as talking to her about learning a new area, I'd shut her down with "M, I will train you in shipping when you've mastered CQ. Significantly decrease the amount of hose you waste with inaccurate trimming, memorize the various parts measurements and storage bins, and bring your sorting errors down to less than 2% (or whatever) and we'll talk."  ;)

LeveeWoman

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Re: Have to make an unpleasant recommendation (sorry, long)
« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2013, 11:49:31 AM »
I know I've posted in the past about my assistant/co-worker, M, and how she is not learning the job.

{long b/g}  I apologise for the long and detailed background length, but I need to show why I really have no other choice but to make the decision I have to make.

At this point, it's now been two years, nearly, and she has still not picked up what would be considered the basic rudiments of this job.  It used to be when I would see her making a mistake, I'd correct it or make suggestions and she would repeatedly assure me she understood.  Now she argues with me. 

See, our job is to measure stuff.  We measure all the parts that go into building an integral part of a safety device that is mandatory in a lot of machinery in a lot of industries.  If we let something go that we shouldn't, and a system fails, people can die.  This is Serious Business.

In addition to being the Quality Control supervisor, I do a lot of other stuff.  I wear a lot of hats and pick up a lot of slack because, other than the lead hand, I am the only person in the shop who has done every job, from the bottom up.  I've received the parts, inspected the parts, measured the parts, put the parts together into their sub-assemblies, put the sub-assemblies together, tested the final product and packed the thing up to ship out.  I'm also the second most senior person in the shop, so I'm called on to do a lot of extras. 

M wants to learn all this extra stuff as well, and while I certainly don't have a problem with anyone wanting to learn new stuff, she just...can't.  She is a slow learner, and seems to completely lack the ability to figure things out.  For example, we have these long cables that go with a certain model of device.  They come in 10, 20 and 30-foot lengths.  They come loose in a box and one of the jobs that both she and I have done is to  twist them into coils.  Enough that I can safely say she has handled hundreds of these things.  She also knows that we have nothing else in the shop that even remotely reaches those dimensions in size.  If that were all the knowledge you had to work with, if you saw something on a shipping order that read "20' xxx kit", you'd probably figure out that a 20-foot cable was what it was referring to.  Not M.  Her words exactly?  "I'd never figure out that that's what it was."  Arrrghhh.  USE YOUR HEAD.  Or, when the order says "Part # XXX-XXXXX 90-degree elbow, casting, 2.5" OD(outside diameter)" and you have a bin labeled with two part numbers and two different elbows and are not sure which is which (one is 2" OD, one's 2.5".  The bin labels say as much.) and you work with hundreds of different high-precision measuring devices, would it not cross your mind to perhaps double-check by measuring to make sure you have the right one?  Not M.  "It never would occur to me to measure them.  I don't even know which one the order needs."  IT SAYS RIGHT ON THE PAPER.  READ.  USE YOUR HEAD.

I've even caught her measuring dimensions on parts that are inconsequential to the point where they're not even shown on the drawing she's measuring against.  What, exactly, is she going to compare the dimension she is measuring against?  When I pointed out that the dimension she was checking isn't even on the drawing, she says, "Well we have to measure everything!"  Well, that's great that you want to be thorough, but that dimension isn't on the drawing.  How do you know it's even right?  How CAN you know it's correct if you don't even know what it's supposed to be?

At this point, she is failing to grasp even the basic skills required of the job.  She can't do inspection well.  She can't build things.  (she has repeatedly forgotten a crucial retaining clip on a certain sub-assembly so that under testing pressure, the person doing the testing has nearly been badly injured by a part getting shot out because it had no retaining clip on).  We have soft hose that we cut to custom lengths; I've shown her several times, as have other people, how to cut it straight, instead of cutting it crooked, then trying to straighten the crooked cut by "trimming" the hose.  Yet I'll see her having cut several pieces of hose crookedly and she is surrounded by a mountain of hose trimmings.   That's quite a bit of wastage.  We keep telling her if she is cutting the hose properly, there is no need for trimming; she keeps insisting it's the end result that matters and her cut pieces are fine.  We keep pointing out how much she wastes a)by trimming and b) because the pieces she has trimmed bits off of are now too short.  She keeps saying it's fine.  IT'S NOT FINE.

We build three different types of trigger systems.  She's built them all (with varying degrees of success) many times.  But she has no idea what the difference is between them (one is manually triggered, one air-pressure-triggered, one electric) or how they work. 

{end very long background}

So Bossman asked me t o fill out her yearly review/recommendation, where I review performance, highlight strengths and weaknesses.  I've done this for a few other co-workers/shop hands and never had any issue...but I've also never had to review anyone whose performance is so consistently poor.  I need help coming up with a way to highlight all the issues I've mentioned above without sounding like I'm attacking every little thing.  These are examples of serious issues.   I need to be very clear on them because unfortunately I have to make the recommendation she be replaced.  The decision ultimately is Bossman's, but he understands that I work more closely with M than anyone else on a day to day basis, and I'm the best qualified to do the review.

I don't know how to word the examples I've given above to make it 100% clear to Bossman that I'm not making the recommendation lightly; that I really honestly feel that she simply cannot work in this environment.  She lacks common sense, rudimentary mechanical understanding, the ability to listen and retain information, the ability to follow directions or the ability to figure things out.  In this kind of work environment, with this kind of product, everything is very high-precision and detail-oriented and she really does not have a head for details.  And honestly, I feel 2 years is plenty of time to learn the ropes.

How can I phrase my review explanations and recommendation without it coming across that M makes me want to tear my hair out on a daily basis, and I can no longer in good conscience say that she is qualified to continue doing this job?

You need to say exactly this. She's jeapordizing people's lives.

reflection5

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Re: Have to make an unpleasant recommendation (sorry, long)
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2013, 12:09:41 PM »
OP, thanks for answering my question and providing clarification.

QC is an extremely important function.  Two years is a lot longer than most people get to learn the ropes.  To be honest, I feel that all her talk about learning new and different things is hogwash.  She hasn't even learned her own job (or if she has, she's not performing it.)

I once had a slacker co-worker who often went on and on (when boss was within earshot) about learning new things and making things easier for everyone.  Meanwhile, everyone else was doing her job while she socialized (on the days she decided to show up at all).  She lasted a few months.

Quote
Right there is your answer.  You have given her reviews and gone through several plans for her to improve upon and clearly she has not done so.   As for Bossman, I would tell them that after two years, you have had enough.  You have done everything that you possibly can to help this woman and it has clearly not worked. If he wishes to keep her on, than her work will rest on his shoulders from now on.  I bet she is gone by the end of the day.

I agree with this.