new.managementHave you ever experienced the inheritance surprise? You inherit an employee who has a history of performance challenges, and the previous manager has not addressed and/or documented the behaviors. As a result, you are “starting from scratch” with the employee—unable to use any performance examples from the past to help the employee improve their performance.  The employee may have been a poor performer for some time but no one has ever discussed the issue with him or her.  You are now expected to address the situation.  When managers “pass the buck” they create the “inheritance surprise.”

You can avoid the inheritance surprise by following these simple practices:

  1. Discuss performance issues with employees when the issues arise.  Don’t wait for a “good time” to raise a concern. There is never a good time except for now.
  1. Document the discussions and agreements you have with the employee in your working file.  These notes help you and the employee remember the agreements you’ve made.
  1. If your organization’s policies allow it, pass your working file to the employee’s new manager when the employee leaves your work unit. Passing the file along allows the inheriting manager pick up where you’ve left off.
  1. When you inherit a new employee, review the notes made by the previous manager. You may also want to look at the employee’s past performance evaluations.  If there were performance challenges in the employee’s history, discuss those with the employee immediately to establish common ground and a plan for moving forward productively.
  1. Have an “expectation-setting conversation” with all new employees as soon as you begin working together. Your job is to prepare the employee for success, and success must be clearly defined if you are going to help the employee achieve it.

We can eliminate the “inheritance surprise” by practicing effective performance management.  When you do a good job of managing employee performance, you benefit, the employee benefits, the organization benefits, and so does the manager who follows you.

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