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Forgetful Employees: A Guide For Business Owners

When it comes to your employees, you will find yourself dealing with a range of different personalities and character traits. Some employees will be abrasive and prefer to dominate a conversation; others will be naturally friendly and eager to listen to the opinions of others; and you’ll almost certainly find yourself managing at least one employee who is shy and prefers to hang back in group discussions.

For the most part, adapting to the different personalities and traits in your workforce is relatively simple. You learn what each member of staff needs in order to perform to the best of their abilities, who is best suited to different tasks, and begin to be able to judge how each staff member will react to stress and praise. There is, however, one personality trait that it incredibly difficult to adjust to: forgetfulness.

Every employer will, at some point, deal with an employee who is excessively forgetful. Forgetful employees can be incredibly difficult to deal with, especially if the standard of their work is otherwise extremely high. Dealing with forgetful employees is quite unlike coping with any other personality type or character trait; it requires specially-designed intervention, so you can be sure you’re getting the most out of the individual, and your company is still able to benefit from their abilities.

If you’re keen to find out more, here’s what you need to keep in mind and consider when managing a forgetful employee…

#1 – Be as patient as you can possibly be

There are various health conditions that can cause forgetfulness; ADHD, for example, can make employees more likely to struggle with retention and memory. It’s therefore important to be patient with a forgetful employee, and consistently remind yourself that — in the vast majority of cases — they have no control over what they do and don’t remember. If your forgetful employee has other assets and skills that are genuinely beneficial to your business, then forgetfulness — and especially forgetfulness caused by a health condition — is something you can work with. The key to achieving this is support, so it’s always wise to avoid punishing mistakes caused by forgetfulness and instead focus on what can be done to prevent it the same thing from happening in future.

#2 – Talk to your employee about the issue

There’s no harm in raising the issue of forgetfulness with the employee in question, especially if they have themselves raised the issue in the past. If you do decide to discuss the matter with them, it’s important to keep the conversation casual and friendly, while still seeing the conversation as a chance to elicit useful information. For example, take this opportunity to ask if there is anything they think you could be doing to help them. It’s also beneficial if you can ascertain management techniques they might have tried in the past; this can allow you to replicate successful ones, while disregarding solutions they have not found to be beneficial in the past.

#3 – Never issue a verbal-only request

With a forgetful employee, you have to get into the habit of writing everything down— even the most mundane of requests. Ideally, the employee should be the one to write the instruction down; the link between being able to remember things and writing them down is long established, so it’s well worth giving it a try.

#4 – Consider services that can help prevent incidents of forgetfulness

There are a variety of different apps and services available to assist you in helping prevent incidents of forgetfulness in your employee. This type of software can genuinely be revolutionary for a forgetful employee, but do ensure you’re circumspect about how many you try in one go. It’s best to just try one or two different apps at a time; otherwise, there is a real risk of a “too many cooks” situation developing— and the last thing you need is to confuse the employee even further.

There are two apps of this nature that are most suited to assisting a forgetful employee. You’ll definitely want to find the best employee time clock you can, as remembering to clock in and out of the work day can be problematic for forgetful employees. Secondly, investigate task management software options. These apps can track progress on a project and even send reminders if a task has been overlooked.

#5 – Check their progress on a regular basis

In some ways, an employee who is prone to forgetfulness is never going to be a “hands off” employee. They are always going to require an element of monitoring; of consistently checking in to see if they are progressing with tasks as they should be.

It’s therefore useful if you remind yourself to do this on a regular basis. There’s no need to go through a full review every time, of course; just a quick chat or a check with your task management software should be sufficient to ensure everything is as it should be.

#6 – Encourage the employee to be honest when they forget something

If something has been forgotten, you need to know about it. If your forgetful employee feels may be angry or disappointed by them forgetting something,they may be tempted to try and cover the the fact that they initially forgot what was required. This, ultimately, is the worst of all worlds, and can mean that work is delayed or, worse still, is completed in a rush.

There are ways and means of encouraging honesty. First and foremost, it’s important to ask for honesty first and foremost. Take the time to explain to your forgetful employee that you know there will be times when they experience problems, and that you will be understanding provided they inform you of the issue as soon as they are aware of it. Secondly, when they do inform you of a problem, practice positive reinforcement: thank them for their honesty and then focus on resolving the issue as soon as possible.

In conclusion

With the right support and guidance, their other qualities mean forgetful employees can be incredibly beneficial to your business’ prospects. The tips above should allow you to create an environment that works for both you, your forgetful employee, and your business as a whole.  

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