One of the worst things you can do as a manager is falsely accuse someone of not being productive, even if you’re doing it in jest. It's the pot calling the kettle black for working at a half measure. And turning into a micro-manager isn’t going to fix the problem, either. That will just irritate people and make them dislike you more and work less.
Even small breaks between the daily grind can be misleading. Seeing someone on a non-work-related website or social network site does not mean this person is unproductive. Now if the data shows this employee isn’t meeting production standards as a result of being on Facebook all day, well then yes, that person is being unproductive.
But really, there are many other issues at play outside of policing how they browse the web. From setting impossible deadlines to assuming everything's A-OK, here are some underlying problems that will impact how you track productivity.
Unclear objectives or moving targets: You have an employee who wants to do a great job but they just don’t know what they should be doing. Or you have an employee who’s working hard to hit an objective. They're blazing down the track in one direction and then poof, you move the finish the line. It’s exhausting for employees. You need to set aside time to discuss department goals throughout the year and help your employees understand how their contributions help achieve those goals.
Bad process, or worse, no process: A muddled process is one thing. Having absolutely no process is a different animal altogether. Either scenario leaves employees floundering, confused and frustrated. Even if the process worked at one time doesn’t mean that it will work all the time. Instead, take time for process improvement, gather the troops and get some insight as to which direction is both realistic and suitable for everyone. New clients, new employees, new product, new anything is a great time to update your process.
Lack of training: Employees want to do a good job, but sometimes they lack the “know-how”. Do not assume that employees can figure it out on their own. Sure, the job might seem easy to you, but you’ve done the job before. Don't assume that an employee will ask questions if they need help. Get out of the office, walk around, and listen to your team.
Unrealistic deadlines: Sure this happens once in a while, but it should be the exception, not the rule. Make sure any deadlines are discussed with the appropriate production groups and any subsequent changes are discussed and communicated immediately. If you want the best work out of your team, allow them time to do their best. If there's an unrealistic deadline, explain why it happened and why it needs to be achieved and be sure to thank your team when they’ve done the impossible for you.
When it comes down to it, you can’t say your team or an employee is unproductive if you can’t substantiate it with numbers and data. There are several ways you can track productivity, but you must let your team know which standards are acceptable and unacceptable and the consequences of being below the standard.