When a manager says “meet me halfway,” what do they mean?
Halfway is never the goal in our work or personal lives. We want 110 percent from each other, right?
In the workplace, meet-me-halfway is shorthand for “I have to decide if you are worth more investment of my time and energy, and if you do not meet me half way, I have my answer.”
Poor performers are so for a variety of reasons. Putting problems clearly on the table, along with solutions, is difficult. Meet-me-halfway can be a useful clarifying tool.
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Mangers may use these four questions to decide whether a poor-performer will meet them halfway:
Have you contributed in any way to these poor results? An employee who says they have no part to play in their poor work is unlikely to do the things needed to improve. Giving a chance to acknowledge fault is a good way to advance a stalled conversation about improvement. Surprisingly, there are poor performers who will deny any part in the problem. In that case, you have your answer and it may be time to move on.
What are you ready (and able) to do differently, starting now? This question allows a more detailed conversation around specific changes which must be made. Forcing an employee to generate their own list (rather than seeking yet another agreement to your list) is better at this stage. It shows you if they are listening, if they understand what good work looks like and if they care. Answers such as “I guess I just need to do what you ask me to do” are not good. On the heels of several performance discussions, and this meet-me-halfway conversation, lazy or passive responses show you do not have their attention or commitment.
What can I do differently to help you succeed? If you get an admission of some fault, and that fault is reinforced by a thoughtful description of the ways behaviors must change starting today, it is time to seal the deal with a genuine offer of your help. The offer does two things. It firms up the commitment to change and gives you a measurement tool for the coming days/weeks.
How will we both know you are meeting performance goals? This is the time to clarify ultimate expectations and timelines. Performance cannot stay at half-way; that was just a place to meet and recommit to something much better. The timeline will depend on the performance gap, the failed efforts to date, the perceived chance for success and such. Whatever that timeline and performance definition, they should both be very clear.
Employees who know or sense their manager is dissatisfied with their work should bring it up. “How am I doing?”, “What can I do to get better at this role?”, “What do you see as the difference between my work and the very best work done in this area?” Make the topic of your performance a welcome and natural one for you both. You will both benefit.
Bruce Clarke, J.D. , is CEO of CAI, which helps North Carolina employers maximize employee engagement and minimize employer liability. For more information, go to www.capital.org