Alexa took her current post in 2010. That year she led her group to earn Best Retail Operation for the region, going from worst-to-first in a single year. Along with a public award, Alexa received a “Far Exceeds” rating on her annual performance appraisal.
Unfortunately, at the time of her next review, Alexa’s group was slightly below its Key Performance Indicators (KPI) targets and so her boss rated her performance as only “Meets Expectations.” It turned out to be a case of poor timing as the group rebounded and by year’s end had once again won Best Retail Operation.
An important and tangible difference
For Alexa, the difference between “Meets Expectations” and “Far Exceeds” was important—and tangible. In her company, a rating of Far Exceeds meant the employee had a greater chance of a promotion in the next 12 months, a greater opportunity to participate in juicy cross-functional projects that C-level executives track, and a larger base salary and bonus package for the coming year.
Alexa’s boss apologized for the 2011 rating and said he would make it up to her in the 2013 review. Unfortunately, the damage was done; Alexa interpreted her boss’s decision as unfair given her history of taking a last place group to first place in less than a year, and then repeating that high performance. Her boss said nothing could be done.
The impact of that interpretation was that Alexa went from being highly interested and innovative in her role to being more or less disinterested—just going through the motions. She said, “You rate me as Meets Expectations, and I will meet expectations. Nothing more.”
Leading with Optimal Motivation
When talked with about this, Alexa was immovable, so deep was the sense of betrayal. In considering ways to help her, a purely rational, left brain, traditional business analysis of this situation would have us evoking some version of the Nike slogan—Just Do It. In other words, “Alexa, change your attitude, accept your boss’s apology, and get back to it.”
But, that’s probably a fantasy at this point. Alexa now perceives the performance management system as unfair, so she feels hurt by it and wary of it.
Our Optimal Motivation process suggests a different approach. Instead of suggesting that she just get over it, we would recommend that Alexa’s leader’s work would be to address how Alexa feels, and to help her reconnect with her passion for delighting customers, her passion for making the workplace amazing for her employees, and the important financial and competitive contribution her group makes to the welfare of the entire organization. Her manager, then, would be engaging with Alexa in a series of Motivational Outlook Conversations.
What Would You Do?
That’s our approach (and we would be happy to talk with you more about that) but for now, let’s make this interactive.
- What would you do to help Alexa return to the proverbial sunny side of the street?
- How would you engage her manager?
- What changes do you think her manager would want to make so that she or he is successful with Alexa?
Use the comments feature. It would be great to hear your thoughts and how you would address this situation.
About the author:
The Motivation Guy (also known as Dr. David Facer) is one of the principal authors—together with Susan Fowler and Drea Zigarmi—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new Optimal Motivation process and workshop.