Schwarzenegger Phobia–Part 1
Valerie fanned the phone messages in her hand, studying them with the intent of a high-stakes poker player. "I don't think I can bluff my way through this round. Maybe I'll just fold and wait to see if I get dealt a better hand the next time," she thought, wishing it were that easy.
She was the lone ranger of human resources, covering a vast territory of satellite sales and remote service centers for the company. The human resources staff was so sparse that she often felt like a piece of taffy, stretched and pulled into fibrous strands. Her advice and opinions were in constant demand. Although Valerie preferred to offer prevention strategies, she was unfortunately recruited more often for cleanup detail. From the looks of today's messages, Valerie suspected she would be relegated to mopping up management mishaps.
As she reviewed her phone messages again, she thought, "What is it–a full moon tonight?" They all spelled trouble. Before she got the pleasure of selecting one for response, Valerie's secretary buzzed her office.
"Valerie, Jerry Bailey's on the line. He sounds awful–says it's an emergency. Something about an employee, Ravi Pental," her secretary said.
"Hmmm . . . I wonder what could be the problem," Valerie thought. She'd been working with Jerry for the past three months. Jerry was one of the best-trained managers in the customer service group.
Ravi Pental was one of Jerry's service representatives who was having performance problems. It seemed that Ravi had a difficult time following instructions. He liked to do things his own way, which resulted in serious data entry errors.
Valerie counseled Jerry on coaching techniques to help Ravi achieve success. Jerry took Ravi through all the appropriate steps. At Valerie's urging, Jerry documented all of his coaching discussions with Ravi. The documentation demonstrated that Jerry provided additional training and prepared detailed development plans to assist Ravi, who was also having some difficulty with the language (Ravi had been raised in India).
After each session Ravi behaved as though he understood Jerry's expectations. He'd do fine for a few days but then would lapse into his own ways, ignoring standard procedures.
Jerry made it very clear to Ravi during each counseling session that there was a time limit on performance improvement. If Ravi couldn't demonstrate sustained improvement, he would lose his job. When the deadline arrived, Ravi fell short of performance expectations.
When Jerry called Valerie for counseling about how to terminate Ravi, she gave him explicit instructions. She was surprised to be hearing from Jerry–especially with a call tagged "emergency." Jerry was not the type to cry wolf or overreact.
"Hi, Jerry. What's wrong?" she asked with grave concern.
"Valerie, I have Ravi in another office," Jerry said. "I told him he was being terminated for poor performance and he went bonkers. I don't understand it. I must have told him on four occasions that if his performance did not improve he would lose his job. He'd just smile and say that he'd do better. Val, he's normally this mild-mannered, smiling little guy–somewhat thickheaded maybe, but not hysterical. When I told him, he turned white as a sheet and scampered under the desk. He's in there now cowering and crying and chanting something in Hindi. I don't know what to do here," Jerry lamented.
"Let's not panic, Jerry. I'm sure that there must be some explanation," Valerie offered. "Now tell me exactly what you said to him in the interview."
Click here for Part 2 to find out why Ravi was so frightened.