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    Men Can Do Laundry; Dealing with Poor Performance

    By Mark McCatty, Leadership & Team Advisor

    How many times have you heard a complaint about what somebody did wrong? The expected performance was poor. Frequently, that’s an issue that has been brought to me. The situations are various but the bottom line is the same; they did me wrong. I came across this interesting statistic that illustrates the point well.

    Per recent survey results; * Men do 29% of laundry each week. Only 7% of women trust their husbands to do it correctly.

    There is an obvious distrust from the clear majority of the wives who took part in this survey about their husband’s ability to safely handle the laundry tasks. I believe the tasks for maintaining the household should be a shared responsibility. I think that most women would agree that all household tasks should be shared. I would assume that they would not want to take on the laundry tasks alone. I further imagine that more than the small minority of men identified in the survey would, in fact, want to assist their partner by helping with the laundry more.

    Think of the traditional approach of pointing out, very clearly, what a sorry job was done when the the laundry was prepared.

    I think all the motivational theories around would agree that this approach will not be very motivating. And this blame and shame approach can decrease the motivation and desire to do that job again.

    It’s the old joke about the man who did not want the job of doing laundry. So, to get out of the job, the husband simply intentionally messed it up. And, of course, the wife’s response was, “I’ll just do it myself!” How many times have we seen that episode play out at work. It’s [easier, faster, quicker, going to get done right…] if I just do it myself? Is that how we want it to play out, though?

    So, the laundry [or whatever else] was done badly. There are choices available to deal with this situation.

    1.    Of course, do it yourself. It can be easier to be more passive and avoid the conflict, true. But then, you are stuck with doing the laundry all alone.

    2.    Let them continue to do it wrong. But, by gosh! they are going to do it. This involves a lot of nagging, lecturing and scolding. It probably means more damaged clothes.

    3.    And yes, you could always just send the clothes out to a third-party vendor. This solves the problem of poor workmanship, but does nothing to close the skill gap, or strengthen the relationship. And how many times can we use this option in a work situation. Dumping a poorly performed jump on someone else does very little to correct the poor performance. Besides, this sidestepping of responsibilities can create a poor performance culture.

    4.    Deal with the poor performance, by closing the skill gap. This requires a high, more effective level of influence by Coaching to the Future.

    I would always suggest using option 4; Coach to the Future to improve poor performance. This approach requires more than simply complaining to the person about how poorly they did. And it certainly does not permit avoiding addressing the issue and avoiding the conflict. To Coach to the Future you must know what future you desire. In this instance, the desired future is a better job of doing the laundry from the husband.

    Here are some tips to consider when having this conversation with the negligent husband. Acknowledge the fact that they did put the effort in to complete the laundry. Effort should be worth some points. Don’t assume that their poor performance was intentional. Presume that they did want to do a good job. So, give them some very specific suggestions for how they might do a better job in the future. But don’t dump a laundry list [pun intended] on them. Too much information means nothing gets through. And don’t forget to give them a reason – a benefit – for following your suggestions and doing a good job. People will be more willing to comply when they have a reason to.

    So, truth told, I was performing badly in the performance of my laundry duties. It seems it is a problem to put white towels in with black dresses. So, I experienced some good Coaching to the Future. It went like this, “Mark, I appreciate your helping with the laundry. Next time, would you keep the white towels separate from my black dresses? I know you are being helpful and that you’re trying to get it all done in one load. When you keep these colors separate, it saves me a lot of time trying to get all the white lint off my black garments. Can you help me with this?” Nicely done! And of course, I was more than happy to make that minor adjustment. And…I remember, at least most of the time.

    We can’t ignore the fact that positive praise and words of affirmation can change and create new behaviors much better than criticism and nagging. So, it is possible to influence some of the 70% of husbands to be more helpful around the house by giving some praise and acknowledging the effort. They may not do the best job when they start, but Coaching to the Future can help them improve.

    So, when you are faced with poor performance, choose option 4. Coach to the Future. Take a step back. Use a little empathy. Believe the best intentions of the other person and give them a chance to improve. Don’t be the one who simply discards other people and takes it all yourself. You can do better than that!

    Mark McCatty - Leadership & Team Advisor

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    As a leadership and team advisor, I have helped numerous organizations, through speaker presentations, group training, and individual coaching, to meet the challenge of creating engaging and purposeful work environments. 

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