How to Painlessly get employees to do what you want them to do

How to Painlessly get employees to do what you want them to do

Let’s get this out of the way: Many employers have the opinion….They should just do it because it is their job.

Yes, it is their job. I get that, so we can waste our time talking in circles about how they should just do it or we

can accept things as they are and train them to be accountable.


When you need something done:

First, please train them! DON’T assume they know how. We all have stories, like the girl who had never used a

broom before. As directors what we want is to just tell employees what to do and for them to just do it, with

as little direction as possible, no feedback and not even checking that it has been done. In reality this just will

not be effective.


  • Start by asking the right way and by phrasing it like a request: I need your help with…. Would you

please…? An employee acting out of choice—even in matters of compliance—is far more likely to be

engaged than an individual that sees only a list of “have-tos.”

  • Be convincing and use persuasion to get buy-in. The employees need to believe that it needs to be

done for the good of the bigger picture. THE WHY! This is especially important to millennials. Think

about yourself, when we are given a task. If we understand why and we believe, it will make things

better then we grumble a lot less.

  • We're all in the business of persuasion. Employees and people in general become more helpful and

agreeable when they are being convinced. This can be challenging especially in the childcare world

because we do not want to be perceived as “selling” anything. Think of it this way, we are not selling,

we are merely informing them what is best for the better good and in turn for them like a mutual

understanding of need. For example, why cleaning the lobby to not a menial chore. It is what is best

for the center because first impressions, drives and keeps enrollment which stabilizes the funding

which allows for raises, etc. Think through you rationale and be genuine and sincere.


What happens when it doesn’t get done? We investigate to confirm if it is “won’t do” or “can’t do.” Won’t do,

means they have the tools and knowledge, yet they are not completing the task. Can’t do means, they don’t

have the tools, understanding or the skill to get the job done.


  • Don’t start the conversation by being demanding, be light-hearted. Assume they want to comply.

This may be the first time to share the big picture…THE WHY! Employees really do want to know the

why. Who wants to be told…because I said so? Always give the backstory. I know this can be

frustrating but getting all hot-headed is not going to help. See the bigger picture and involve

reciprocity. Which is: the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, especially

privileges granted by one country or organization to another.

  • Remember to be convincing and persuading. The idea here is that employees are far more likely to be

engaged when they choose, versus being required to do something.  I do recognize this is not always

possible, to give them a choice.

  • Start your documentation. Write what your concern is, their response and place in their file. They

don’t typically sign this because we are under the assumption they will fix the problem and we will not

have to discuss again.


It STILL doesn’t get done! You thought for sure you had it all straightened it out. Have another conversation

and do some basic documentation and have them sign it. I have always said, some employees will NEVER take

you seriously until they see it in writing!


  • It is now time for accountability! GOOD COMPANIES HOLD EMPLOYEES ACCOUNTABLE! This

reinforces a positive company culture. To be successful we must put the effort into accountability and

follow-up to get the results you want. What my friend Carol Gatewood says, “what is inspected gets

done, not what is expected!”

  • Develop a plan with them. Make them ACCOUNTABLE with their own input! Allow them to give input

if they are capable. Make sure the directions/plans are clear and written. A checklist, step by step, time

frame; have them SIGN it! Evaluate your goals using the acronym S.M.A.R.T.


S: Set specific goals/tasks, as general ones are useless.

M: Make sure they are measurable, as you should be able to tell if you’re winning or not.

A: The goals/tasks should be achievable, or grounded in reality.

R: Ensure the objectives are relevant, as they support the organization’s overall mission.

T: They should be time-bound; the best goals have a deadline.

  • Directors will say: I don’t have time to do the meeting, planning or documenting. I say: Do you have

time to go over this 2 dozen times with the employee? This will come to a resolution much quicker if

you have steps in writing. Written plans are proven to be more likely to be met.

  • Now PASS off the inspection of the plan to one of your team members.


Still NOT doing what you want? This time I recommend you have them write why they haven’t gotten it

done. Use their written explanation and plan as a guide to write your documentation. Meet with them to

review and have them sign.


  • Start your search for a new candidate.
  • You no longer phrase/frame your directions as a request! This is a “won’t do,” especially if they have

the tools and support to get the job done. Use tougher language: “I just want to confirm that you

understand this is your part of your job and by not doing this, you are not doing your job and putting

your job at risk.”

  • Directions should not be given in form of a question! When you ask, “will you sweep the floor?” don’t

be mad when they take the direction as a choice.

  • Use an alternate approach /consequences to get their attention: Just like sometimes directions aren’t

taken seriously until they are in writing, sometimes they aren’t taken seriously until there are


Send them home for the rest of the day, never on a Friday.

Suspend them for a day or 2…yes hopefully they will be out looking a job. Changing their hours!

Reduce hours to part-time.

Reduce hours to a floater.

Change job to substitute/fill-in.

Change of classrooms.

Change teacher, move teachers.

Change title, from Lead to Assistant.

  • If at this point, you’ve trained them, mentored them, talked to them, provided written documentation,

developed a plan with or for them and they still are not getting the job done then it is time to let them

go. You should have enough documentation to easily terminate them and prove that they were not

willing to comply.


And finally;

Do NOT complain about what you are allow! Let me repeat that. If you allow it, you cannot complain!


Being a good supervisor is like raising children, it takes work for them to understand your expectations, but

once they understand it will be smooth sailing!


Vernon H. Mason, Jr. M.Ed.

Author, Humorist, Inspiring Keynote Speaker and Workshop Trainer Extraordinaire