Don’t Get Stressed out Because of Sloppy Work

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I just fired one of my Section Leaders!’ Abdul, the recently appointed SVP of a construction company, in Abu Dhabi, told me last week during my monthly coaching phone call. ‘And what were your reasons?’ I asked.  ‘He was making repeated work errors that were unacceptable’.  I couldn’t manage the situation any longer as he was becoming a liability to the whole department,’ he replied. I listened attentively as he continued, ‘Carole, do you think I did the right thing?’

Not an easy one to answer!  We all know how important it is to take remedial action when we see work that is unacceptable but it is not always simple for some individuals to change.    Having operated personally in a certain way for years, it is often too difficult for them to change their mindset and way of working.  However, such a situation may need to change dramatically when a new senior executive arrives.

A new SVP can mean that you are faced with an immediate challenge.  Either raise your game immediately or accept the fact that you may have to find alternative employment with another company or organisation.  Neither of these are easy choices but they are ones that need to be addressed.

Diagnosing Sloppy Work

People can submit work that is incomplete or otherwise unsatisfactory, for many different reasons.  They may have had insufficient time owing to tight deadlines; they may have poor time-management skills; they may not have fully understood the task they had been given or it is possible they might just be bored with their work.

With all of us, there will be aspects of our jobs that we may not like and, therefore, in which we don’t excel.  You may be a great communicator and presenter on platform but you may hate the report-writing that goes with the job because it takes you out of your comfort zone.

You may think that a wrong decision was only very small and unlikely to have any major impact because you didn’t appreciate the possible importance of it. However, what you may not have seen is the bigger picture and the impact that your mistake could have on an important decision to be taken by others that depended on the accuracy of your work.

When you think of sloppy work, you might visualise tasks not being performed correctly; documents presented full of errors with no regard given to team goals and objectives and/or the impact of such mistakes upon a third party.  Of course, errors can also be intangible such as inattentive listening to customer/client demands or inappropriate remarks that can damage the credibility of your own organisation.

So how can you overcome inappropriate behaviour or unacceptable work within your team?


Before you discuss sloppy work with a team member, first examine your own mindset to ensure that you are not just being a perfectionist with targets that are unrealistic.  If you are, then any work produced by others may not match your high standards because they might well be unachievable.

Talk to your team member

Take into consideration that your team member may not realise that there is a potential problem in his/her work output, so that an initial conversation, handled with sensitivity, might be all that is required to achieve the result you want.  It might be useful to enumerate examples of mistakes that have been made and to then confirm that the individual has a full understanding of the standard of work that is expected of him or her.

Identify additional resources

It is also important to make sure that there isn’t a training issue that needs to be addressed.  Sometimes, individuals may not be confident enough to ask for additional training and it may be up to you to identify if this is part of the problem.  Alternatively, the appointment of a mentor might help to increase standards of quality and performance.

However, if work produced continues to be sub-standard then it may be necessary to give the employee or manager concerned, formal notice of dismissal if there is no improvement within a specified time.    Such action being vital for the rest of the team and the organisation as a whole.

Key Points

  • Sub-standard work needs to be addressed
  • Small errors can lead to incorrect decisions
  • Unacceptable output requires management action

Written by Carole Spiers and reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News.

Need a Motivational Speaker or Awards Host for your Next Conference or Boardroom briefing?  Work Stress Expert, Carole Spiers will deliver a charismatic, high-impact keynote presentation, ‘Show Stress Who’s Boss!’, based on her new book, at your next conference.  Contact us [email protected] or call + 44 (0) 20 8954 1593

Learn How to Deal with Stress:  Carole’s book, Show Stress Who’s Boss! shows you how to deal with stress, manage your stress & anxiety and overcome symptoms of stress.  You’ll find tools and stress management techniques to make your life stress-free.  Inside this book you’ll find 4 proven steps to relieve your stress symptoms.  Buy your personally signed copy and receive a FREE stress test card.  Also available in Kindle version.

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