Holding Employees Accountable: Maybe It’s Time to Call Mom & Dad

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It’s a different world we live in today.

Yes, 30 is the new 20, which makes 20 the new 10, which makes me … still old.

I’ve mentioned this before, and people always felt like it was tongue in cheek, but I think it’s time as HR pros and leaders we start having parents in on our performance conversations.

I’m serious! And, I have a great real-life example from the world of professional basketball and the NBA.

Getting a wake-up call from Mom and Dad

Klay Thompson, a member of the Golden State Warriors, was involved in a fight recently and fined $35,000 by the league. No big deal, right? Typical NBA pro sports behavior.

But, wait! His dad, former NBA player Mychal Thompson, keeps his son’s finances and “grounded” him from his weekly allowance! From the Bleacher Report:

The 23-year-old doesn’t have access to his money, all cheques are paid to Mychal and Julie who take care of his accounts for him to make sure Klay’s financial situation is set up for his post NBA career. So, naturally, Papa Thompson’s going to teach Klay a lesson of his own by fining him personally also, however Klay will find out the old fashioned way.

‘He will [find out he’s been fined by us] when he sees that cash envelope show up a little short this week,’ he said.”

Klay Thompson is 23 years old. How many young twenty-somethings do you have working in your office? How many of those young 20?s and late 20?s and possibly 30?s could use a little wake up call from Mom and/or Dad!?

The terrible state of holding people accountable

If HR has taught me anything, it’s most leaders are terrible at holding their employees accountable and managing performance. It’s not getting better, and it seems to have gotten worse over the past five years.

Most organizations eliminated or reduced leadership training during the recession, so our leaders haven’t gotten better — they’ve gotten worse. We can start spending a ton of resources to train them and get them up to speed, or, we could just hand them Billy’s Mom’s phone number and have her come by the office one day. Kind of like a conference at school!

“Mrs. Sackett, we are glad you could take time out of your busy day to talk about Timmie. You see, Timmie is a little … well, let’s say Tim’s performance isn’t where it should be for someone of his age, experience and education. I was hoping you might be able to help me get Tim back on track. Here are some examples of what Tim’s been doing …”

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Can you imagine how 99 percent of those poor performers involved in this conversation would change?

Another way to reach poor performers

We laugh because it seems absurd that we would have to call in someone’s parents to adjust their performance, but I truly think in the right circumstance it could really work.

I’ve seen it work well with good performance. I’ve had a past boss speak to my mother about my good performance and she lit up like a Christmas tree and made me feel proud.

After that happened, I did it with some employees who worked for me — with the same result. If it works so well on the positive side, why should we dismiss that it wouldn’t work on the correction side?

Before you let go of your next poor performer, please do me one favor – make one more call, one last ditch effort, and call Mom and Dad in for a meeting.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.

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5 Comments on “Holding Employees Accountable: Maybe It’s Time to Call Mom & Dad

  1. Gee, I don’t know, Tim. I’ve got 3 kids, 22, 26, and 31 – I know that the two younger ones would just get p-o’d and blow me off. (The eldest would never be in the situation!)

  2. Good idea. Here are some things that recruiters have seen. In some of the big 4 accounting firms Mom and Dad come to interviews! Also the big 4 have arranged separate orientations for Mom and Dad on their “childs” first day at work. I heard one incidence where the Dad came to work with his newly hired child for his/her whole first week of work to supervise!! Maybe that’s carrying it bit too far?

  3. I have adult children as well – aged 24 and 30. In my case, I didn’t need to get a call from the supervisor because the child told me how awful his supervisor was to hold him to the standard. Of course, I became awful as well when I told him the supervisor was correct….
    In my opinion, it depends on the child whether or not talking to the parent would do any good. In some cases, the parent may just try to talk the supervisor out of the discipline.

  4. I just can’t agree with this idea. I am a Millenial and so are most of my co-workers, this type of mentality boggles my mind. I recently went to a sxsw session where someone mentioned that moms coming to interviews were so common the company created a separate waiting room for them. I’m sorry but it’s time to cut the cord. If an interviewee walks into our office with their mom for an interview, they can just walk right back out again. Your point that “most leaders are terrible at holding their employees accountable”, it looks like you need to lead by example and hold your management team accountable because it is their job to hold their employees accountable.

  5. I am astonished by this article. In the business world, one is personally accountable to the company. Not their parents. Someone is being paid to hold each employee accountable. That’s the manager. Suggesting you should outsource your job to the parents because you can’t optimally do it yourself implies significant organizational dysfunction. Here’s an idea: Help rehabilitate bad performance through a performance improvement plan with measured objectives and and endpoint. Reward good performance. Send the employee to a training course. Give them a free day off. Celebrate their accomplishments with the team. You aren’t their parent, so don’t act like it by serving as a parental proxy. Are you also going to help with their laundry?

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