One of the pitfalls of management is that you may only have a high-level knowledge of what your employees do. When you are not a subject matter expert and your employees are, determining which performance metrics to use is imperative. As a new manager to subject matter experts, this can sound incredibly daunting. Fortunately, measuring lab technician performance is simple once you have a plan in place.
To be a good manager, it isn’t always required that you have a background in the field you are managing. In the STEM fields in particular, you may have to manage people with extensive schooling, degrees and a work history that goes far beyond your level of expertise. When your employees are all subject matter experts and you are not, you may feel a bit lost when attempting to provide some form of direction or feedback.
Good development goals require a great deal of interaction between yourself and your employees. Optimally, you will have regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings with each of your direct reports. Touch-base meetings should be approached as a collaborative effort between you and your employees.
Talk to your employees to determine their pain points, their strengths and what they perceive to be their weaknesses. The vast majority of your employees will have a reasonably objective view of these things and will want to work on their progression within your company.
Unfortunately, you will also have employees who do not have a strong understanding of their opportunities for growth or their strengths, and they will need a bit more attention than other employees. There is no best way to handle an employee who is not self-aware, but there are steps that you can take to make these conversations easier.
For the purposes of this sample lab technician performance appraisal, Technician K has been tasked with preparing slides from samples. She is excellent with the fine details of her work, but sometimes she has trouble seeing the larger picture. Her inability to work with this big picture is hindering her advancement, and she wants to work on that. You and K have worked out a plan to help her do more big-picture thinking.
Technician B also prepares slides, and while his work is solid, it isn’t as strong as K’s, and his documentation is extremely poor. Despite these shortcomings, he feels ready to be promoted above K. B is also prone to leaving precisely at the end of the day and leaves projects for others to finish.
You can use what you know about K to help B without involving K and creating an unnecessarily competitive workplace. When B makes a statement like, “I feel that my work is exemplary, and I’ve proven myself to be a leader by delegating work,” you don’t have to fight about it.
In a situation like this, it’s acceptable and recommended to remind your direct report that you are his manager. You might say, “I hear what you are saying, but I’m afraid that isn’t what I am seeing as your manager. I delegate work to everyone based on needs, time and corporate requirements. I need your assurance that going forward, you will finish your assigned tasks without delegating them to others.”
This sort of statement is likely to get push back from Technician B. Listen to what Technician B has to say. Perhaps he felt like he was doing what was in his best interest with the goal of becoming a manager. Working with that is an easy way to level-set and put B on the right track.
If B becomes less reasonable, keep your tone firm and your voice level. “I understand what you’ve perceived, but that isn’t how I want things to work in this department. Again, I need your assurance that you will finish your assigned tasks and not delegate them to other people. Can you do that?” Measuring performance against set laboratory performance metrics and comparing technicians to one another can help you to respond accurately to inaccurate employee self-assessment.