Dear Evil Skippy –
My management team and I are having a heck of a time weaning our employees off of being overly dependent on us. They need help for every little thing they do. It has got to the point where they will hunt me down while I’m using the bathroom to ask me a question! As you can imagine it makes it quite awkward to explain a process that takes about a couple of minutes while I am indisposed and trying to take care of my own business. I acknowledge the fact that since I work retail I will always have younger employees but I don’t remember being THAT dependent for help when I was starting out! How do I wean them off of always asking for help with even simple tasks and while not putting off the vibe that I’m unwilling to assist them when they truly need it?
-Reaching Wit’s End
Evil Skippy’s Five Suggestions for “Reaching Wit’s End”
- Revise your open door policy to clarify that it does not apply to the restroom. Be specific. Bold, all caps, extra large font saying “THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO THE BATHROOM” might suffice.
- Pretend you can’t hear. Once you return to the work area (the employee may be following and jabbering the whole way), miraculously regain your hearing and say, “Due to a rare genetic condition, I become deaf whenever I am in a restroom. Were you saying something?”
- If you are in a stall with the door closed when the intruder strikes, manufacture bodily function noises. Loud ones. Ask any ten year old boy how to do so, or you can buy noise machines on-line.
- Wait for the employee to go into the restroom. Count to ten, slowly, then go in and say, “Is now a good time to give you your evaluation?”
- Avoid the restroom when at work. How? Two words: Stadium Pal.
Once again, Evil Skippy’s ideas are tempting.
Here’s a better plan. Talk to the intrusive employees one by one in private (but not in the restroom. That would be confusing due to the message you will impart). You’ll say something like this:
It’s been great that you haven’t hesitated to ask for my opinion or advice about things as you’ve been learning the job. However, you are now at the point where you should no longer need to ask about routine things or questions that can easily be answered with our resources such as [insert your operations’ examples here]. I don’t want to discourage questions, but the questions should just be about things that you are not able to resolve on your own.
While we are on the topic of questions, I know that I told you when you first started that I am always available for them. I’ve realized that I went too far when I said that. I don’t want to take questions when I am in the restroom, OK? Great. I’m glad you understand.
After these conversations, include the employees’ progress toward more independence in their evaluations. Also, after the employees’ successes (or failures), make use of the coaching and documentation techniques described in Evil Skippy at Work’s article “Daily Performance Management – ‘I.T.S.’ Fundamental”, here.
I hope this helps and that all your future bathroom breaks are private ones.Evil Skippy and/or Jim are available to speak at your conferences and seminars! For information or to send a question for Evil Skippy to answer, use the “Contact” link on the left sidebar. You can also follow Jim’s comedy career on Twitter @JimWebberLOL.