You may have heard Brené Brown’s analogy about the marble jar – where trust is earned like marbles accumulating in a jar, one small act at a time, and where it can be lost through a series of small actions, with marbles being taken out for breaches of trust or transgressions.

What you may not have considered is that as a supervisor, your marble jar is inextricably linked to those you lead. When your staff does great things, you get marbles in your jar from the organization as a whole. When they mess up, you lose marbles and credibility.

If you have an employee who continually causes problems and you as the supervisor let it linger on without acting, you will continue to lose marbles when their behavior persists. Their marble jar may be empty – people have written them off and minimize contact – but you continue to pay the price for their poor performance.

I did not initially realize this but learned it the hard way when I did not fire an employee in a timely manner. Even though I was working one-on-one to improve their attitude, their failure to reform ultimately not only cost them their job, but I paid a personal price in my stature because of the delay. In other words, I lost a lot of marbles from my jar because of my inaction even though it was the employee’s actions that negatively impacted the organization’s culture.

If you are the supervisor of a problem employee, the window for resolving the performance issue is small. If you allow the toxic behavior to persist any length of time, it will leech out into the organization and tarnish your leadership credibility. Others will take marbles from your jar because you did not resolve the issue, irrespective of who or what caused it.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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