Talk with dissapointed employee

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Talk with dissapointed employee

Postby Ivan » Mon Jan 25, 2016 1:41 pm

I have a problem with collegue from my department. She is junior researcher in my group doing mainly technical (programming) work. When she was recruited a few years ago I proposed her to emphasize more on research work but she refused. At the same time she was not (and still is not) enough skilfull programmer to work in commercial companies, so I involved her in my research work with doing some programming tasks. She needed regular help from me as well as from other collegues in the lab. However finally this approach appeared to be quite successfull since it resulted in good results and in a few papers that she co-authored. Now she says that I prevent her career growth, because I didn't invite her to one workshop and because of other unknown reasons. I suppose also that she is not satisfied with her salary. Of course, her salary is less than that of commercial software programmers, however it is quite ok for research organization. I am going to have a talk to her regarding situation and will try to explain benefits of working inside research organization. Additionally I want to propose her new work that will result in somewhat increased salary. However I wouldn't like her to think that I was afraid of her plans to leave my lab. Could you kindly propose some advice of how to conduct such talk? What should be emphasized and what - should not.
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Re: Talk with dissapointed employee

Postby Dave Walker » Mon Jan 25, 2016 3:44 pm

Hi Ivan,

Is this person a colleague, or do they directly report to you? Are you this person's boss? (If it was just a colleague I would not have that kind of conversation at all!)

Otherwise, your situation looks a little too specific to me -- I wouldn't be comfortable giving you good advice. But in a general sense it looks like it's wise to actually ask what is bothering this person and then talk about it. I know that 1) asking questions and 2) listening can help with most problems.
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Re: Talk with dissapointed employee

Postby Ivan » Mon Jan 25, 2016 4:05 pm

Hi Dave, thanks for an answer.
Yes, I am boss of this person.
What I worry about is not to make some wrong emphasize. Generally in my opinion my collegue has exagerrated opinion about her recent work. However I'm doubt whether it is worth saying it?
Anyway, I will try to follow your advice and will ask and listen more than talking by myself.
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Re: Talk with dissapointed employee

Postby Rich Lemert » Mon Jan 25, 2016 8:17 pm

This type of "performance review" discuss is something that should be continuous and on-going, and not something reserved for special occasions. If she has an elevated opinion of her skills, you bear some of the responsibility for this for not having corrected her forcefully enough when it was appropriate. That, however, is water under the bridge - all you can do is keep this in mind for the future.

For the current situation, I would start out by asking her what her career goals and aspirations are - both short and long-term. Among other things, that will help you determine whether or not it's even worthwhile to suggest the "other duties" you mention. Either way, work with her to develop a specific plan to accomplish those goals.

I highly recommend reading a copy of "It's Your Ship" by D. Michael Abrashoff - particularly the parts of developing your workforce. He has a lot of good lessons that are applicable to your situation.
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Re: Talk with dissapointed employee

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Jan 26, 2016 10:46 am

Ivan, you've had some nice commentary here from others. I'll add only one more comment, and that is to see if you can find this book at the library. It's one of the best books I've ever read for the new manager, and it's focused not on other industries, but on managing people who are creative, as in scientists. It ought to be called the "New Managers Guide for Managing Smart, Scientific Staff" but instead it's called "Managing Creative People," and it's written by Albert Shapiro.

Here's a link to a $4, out of print version:

“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”- Alain de Botton
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Re: Talk with dissapointed employee

Postby Ivan » Sat Aug 05, 2017 1:00 pm

Thank you, Dave and Rich, for your help!
I will definitely try to follow your valuable advice and read those books.
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Re: Talk with dissapointed employee

Postby D.X. » Mon Aug 07, 2017 2:14 am

Hi Ivan,

You have good Points already just a couple others from my experiences.

You jumped to Salary as the root-cause for potential employee dissatisfcation, rare you will find this to be the case.

In General, this is about getting to the employees' Motivation and sense of expected reward and I think you Need to get to an alignment with the employee on view of Performance. I've said alot in that last sentence.

It is well possible you have an employee from the tiny bit I read who may have a desire for more "empowerment" - this is not to be confused with more experiencial/Hands-on work. This gets to the start of being part of a decision making process - i.e. being upset at not attending a work-shop and complaints of restricted career-growth talk more to this than salary.

An increase in salary is only a temporory fix if other issues are not addressed, its like treating a symptom of a disease but not the disease. Same for other times, Training only, etc. etc. the plan you come up with should be part of a greater process where you an the employee agree with potential root cause, actionalble Points, Performance indicators (KPIs) and eventually a reward plan snapped to those KPIs.

So read the books recommended - but ask the questions - put it back on the employee...ask THEM their own opinion on current Feelings, Performance, expectations first, and then use that as a baseline and Launch pad for discussion.

Also for the future, try to take a comprehensive Management course offered by your Company, if not done already, take a refresher - i've done so at my current Company - it was a 2 week course all about People Management etc. as part of the company's "leadership academy". Whereas I have takeing a few in the past, a 1 day here a one day there on specific Topics, the one I took put everything together and contextuallized it into the Company culture and future Company People Management ambitions here. It was awesome and worth its weight in Gold. See if your Company has such Management Program.


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