3 Common People Problems for Landscape Foremen

Let's talk turkey for a minute. Landscape foremen deal with a lot. It's often hot, humid and dusty—and other times it is rainy, cold and windy. Foremen deal with demanding bosses and clients, bees, snakes, equipment breakdowns, traffic jams, and the list goes on. The last thing a landscape foreman wants to have to deal with is personnel problems on his crew.

Unfortunately, that happens all of the time. The inclination may be to issue a good butt chewing and simply demand your crew to "get it together!" But that's rarely effective. Following are some tips to help you work through the 3 Common People Problems for Landscape Foremen.

1. Work Quality Slipping

Before work quality is even close to becoming an issue, you want to develop real relationships with your crewmembers upfront. You always want to give your guys a pat on the back for a job well-done, but you also want to be connecting with them on a personal level.

Then, when there is a performance issue, you don't have to use ineffective techniques like the "sandwich"—which is praising an employee on one hand but then reprimanding them on another. For example, "We really like the work you've been doing, but there is this one thing you keep screwing up."

Sandwiching makes you look weak; like you're taking the easy way out. On the other hand, if you've been connecting with your crewmembers on a personal level, it's much easier to be direct without being confrontational.

Just be careful about how you talk to the employee. Use I statements as opposed to you. For example, "You are slacking" or "You need to do it this way" will likely cause the employee to go into a defensive mode. Rather, you could say "I am concerned about this, what do you think?"

Whatever you do, don't avoid a work-quality situation. First, get all of the facts in order. Tell the employee what you see happening, and then ask for their input as to how or why it is happening. Then explain what you need from them in order to succeed. It's very important to help your crewmembers understand their roles from both the customer's and company's perspective.

Finally, don't remain stuck in the past. Problems arise. Fix them and move forward—and do what you can to help your crewmembers stay positive and focused on the future also.

2. Crewmember Having Personal Issues

The employees who work for you could face a myriad of personal challenges: substance abuse, personal finance, familial, health, you name it. Don't be in a hurry to jump the gun and say, "So and so is a lazy drunk who doesn't care about his job." Again, get your facts straight in order to get to the real heart of the matter.

IMPORTANT: Keep your feedback business-related. If you do determine that an employee has a drinking problem, for instance, don't make a statement like, "Tone down the partying on work nights." Delving into an employee's personal, off-hours behavior could actually land you in legal trouble. So don't try to be their big brother, be their boss instead. For example, "This happened on Ms. Johnson's property and that is entirely unacceptable and cannot happen again." If the behavior continues, tell your supervisor so the company owner knows what is going on.

3. Crewmembers Not Getting Along

There's a good chance that some of your crewmembers won't always get along. They are human, after all. It might be a simple personality conflict, or perhaps something more substantial. Whatever the case, it is the team leader's job to make sure the conflict doesn't adversely affect overall team performance.

Talk to each employee individually, and then suggest a meeting of all three of you. Use those handy I statements again. For example, "I'm sensing some tension between the two of you" or "It seems to me that you and Bill aren't enjoying working together."

Try to keep it somewhat casual—as opposed to confrontational—but still make it clear that the consequences of their actions are negative, and unacceptable. Tie it back to the objectives laid before you and your crew: perform great work in a way that makes the customer happy, and your employer happy and more profitable.

It's probably a good idea to schedule a follow-up meeting within the next couple of weeks. This shows that resolving their conflict is important to you and the company. It also shows that, if unable to resolve the conflict, there will be repercussions.

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