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By Marie G. McIntyre, Ph.D.

RISMEDIA, Oct. 11, 2008-(MCT)-Q. One of my employees frequently takes personal calls on his cell phone. I don’t mind calls for important matters or emergencies, but I often hear him chatting with friends or discussing a business that he operates on the side.

My main concern is that his job performance is not acceptable. He always seems to be preoccupied with something other than work.

I discussed the issue of personal calls at a company-wide meeting, but he still seems to be receiving them. What would be a tactful way to deal with this problem?

A. You need to worry less about tact and more about accountability. As a manager, you must hold this guy responsible for producing the results that he’s paid to deliver. Otherwise, you won’t get the expected return on your investment in him.

First, schedule a coaching session with your talkative employee. The main topic of discussion should be his subpar job performance. Although cell phone chatter may contribute to the problem, it’s really a secondary issue.

Once you’ve clearly defined expectations, then you must regularly evaluate his progress. If he shapes up, praise the improvement. But if he continues to slack off, advise him that he’s putting his job in jeopardy.

For the future, remember that you can’t correct an individual performance problem with a group announcement. The good employees feel unfairly chastised, and the guilty party inevitably fails to get the message.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”

© 2008, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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