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One of the most common questions managers ask me
November 06, 2018

“I have an issue with one of my direct reports”

Here in this November Leader Newsletter issue – I am going to answer a question that I get asked again and again and again … from live audiences in my seminars – and from you my dear readers.

When managers ask me this question – usually – they are already desperate.

Obviously, the question comes in different forms and shapes, depending on who is asking me the question – but in essence – the question is this:

“One of my direct reports exhibits an undesirable behavior in a consistent basis. I don’t know what to do about it because he is a good person and/or I am tired of this employee and/or he is a good performer and/or I just don’t like his behavior and/or etc. How do I handle this situation?”

Given the number of times that I hear this question consistently – I can safely conclude that this is a common problem among managers of all ranks.

Fact: It is impossible for me to give you a universal answer that will fix the specific issues, dilemmas and circumstances of everybody who has asked me this question.

However – I am going to give you a couple of guidelines about what to do to find the answers that you are looking for.

[Side note]: Before I start – this is a good place to remind you to reply back to this Newsletter and ask me your questions – any questions that you might have about team building, employee engagement / commitment – and about how to grow as a leader [end of side note].

OK – so …

Please allow me to ask you a couple of questions:

Among your direct reports – do you have a low performer?

Or …

Do you have a high performer that doesn’t respect some of your team’s values?

Or …

Do you have an average performer whose behavior is having a negative impact on his peers?

Or …


Let me ask you one more question:

Inside the direct supervisor/direct report relationship:

IF the direct report doesn’t behave according to the direct supervisor’s expectations – who is responsible for the direct report’s undesired behaviors?

Is it the direct report’s – or is it the direct supervisor’s?

Let me ask you the same question in a more personal way:

Let’s assume that your have a direct report that behaves in an undesirable way.

Your direct report could be a low performer, an average performer, or a high performer.

My question is:

Who is responsible for such undesired behaviors – you or your direct report?

Please – answer this question before you continue reading.

This is important.

Got it?

OK –

Let’s continue …

Who is responsible for the performance of the TEAM you lead – you or your direct reports?

You ARE responsible of course.

In the same way – you are responsible for the individual performance of each and every single one of your direct reports. Not themselves – but you.

If you have a direct report who exhibits undesired behaviors, it is YOUR responsibility – not theirs.

Once you assume this responsibility – then and only then will you be able to do something about it.

IF you don’t assume full responsibility and you assign some or all of this responsibility to your direct report – you will never have control over your direct report’s performance.

I repeat – because this is important:

Once you assume this responsibility – then and only then will you be able to do something about it.

Now – the question is:

What do you want to do about your direct report’s undesired behaviors?

Do you want to keep your direct report despite such undesired behaviors?

Or do you want your direct report to replace his undesired behaviors for desired behaviors?

Or, are you fed up with this direct report – and you rather show him the exit door today?

Before you jump to conclusions … let me ask you a few questions:

Have you created a 100 percent open communication environment between your direct report and yourself?

If you answer, “no” – this is something you must do as the leader of your direct report.

Did you give him SMART goals at the beginning of the year?

If you answer, “no” – once again – this is something you must do as the leader of your direct report.

Have you been updating such goals each time it has been necessary?

Idem: If you answer, “no” – this is something you must do as the leader of your direct report.

Did you align his goals with his personal aspirations, development and growth?


Is he committed to his goals? Yes – or not?

If not – what have you done about it?


Have you given him both positive and constructive feedback in an ongoing basis?


Have you been asking your direct report to give you feedback?


Have you been holding one-on-one meetings with him once a week?


Have you had performance conversations in order to help him change his specific undesired behavior?


Have you talked about consequences with him, if the undesired behavior persists?


Have you been 100 percent consistent in applying such consequences?


Etc., etc., etc., …

Let me put it in different words:

When your direct report shows undesired behaviors in a persistent way – the problem does NOT live in your direct report.

The problem lives in you – the problem lives in your lack of leadership.

I repeat: This is a common problem among managers of all ranks.


If you have an issue with one of your direct reports – look at yourself in the mirror.

What are you doing – or not doing – that allows your direct report to behave in an undesirable way?

[Side note]: Remember to reply back to this Newsletter to ask me any questions you might have about this article here above and/or about team building, employee engagement and commitment. I will do my best to answer them in a future Leader Newsletter issue. Thank you very much for your participation [end of side note].

Questions? Feedback?
Reply to this Newsletter and tell me what you would like future issues to be about.

Feel free to re-send this "Leader Newsletter" to your colleagues.

And click here to see the entire "Leader Newsletter" Archive.

Most recent 12 "Leader Newsletter" issues:

Can you lead from a non-leadership position?
Ask - and you shall receive
Common Leadership Mistakes
Motivation Fundamentals
What exactly is “Coaching”?
Debate vs Discussion vs Dialogue
How a tiny stick may help your discussions
Practical and powerful communication technique
One of the most effective communication tools
New Year & Your Direct Reports
Are you conscious about this responsibility?
Are you being unconsciously reactive?

See you next month!
Joseluis Romero - Publisher
November 6, 2018. Copyright: All rights reserved
I publish "Leader Newsletter" on the first Tuesday of every month
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