Incompetent? Think twice before firing him.

His performance rating is low and getting lower. The obvious first thought is to get rid of him. The sensible second thought is to probe to the root of the problem. Unfortunately, Engineering Project Supervisor Stu Mailin never got beyond thought one.


His performance rating is low and getting lower. The obvious first thought is to get rid of him. The sensible second thought is to probe to the root of the problem.

Unfortunately, Engineering Project Supervisor Stu Mailin never got beyond thought one. Al Crenshaw, a junior engineer hired 11-mo prior, was failing consistently to meet established standards for his job. Mailin's conclusion was clear. He had to go.

Life wasn't that simple. When Mailin broke the news to Crenshaw, he protested the discharge. When Mailin showed him the performance record on which his decision was based, the young engineer didn't dispute the figures and conceded he had been functioning below standard.

"Then how -- ?"

"It's not my fault," Crenshaw cut in. "The first 4 mo of my employment, my performance was rated above average."

"So what? I'm sure you heard the expression, 'Don't tell me what you did yesterday; what have you done for me today?'"

"Sure. But the reason I'm below standard is your fault, not mine. I was doing fine in the job I was hired to do. It's only when you switched me to Section C that I ran into problems."

"I can't see why that should be. You received adequate training for the new job."

"It depends on what you call adequate. For one thing, the work I've been assigned to for the past few months doesn't make the best use of my prior training and experience. For another, I don't get along with Joe Bondi, the trainer you assigned to me. He doesn't care if I succeed or not."

When Mailin refused to back down, Crenshaw threatened to sue.

Question: If Crenshaw follows through with his threat, how do you rate his chance of winning?

Bernardi's decision: "Transfer him out of Section C," Plant Engineer George Bernardi instructed Mailin. "Before firing an employee for incompetence, investigate the circumstances involved. A person's per-formance doesn't ordinarily change from above average to below average without good reason. It's a supervisor's responsibility to check into and determine that reason."

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2017 Top Plant.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
March 2018
SCCR, 2018 Maintenance study, and VFDs in a washdown environment.
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
December 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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