Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Improve Performance in Poorly Performing Staff

Most managers have to deal with poor employee performance at some point. Poor employee performance is a concern because it affects team and organizational performance. When poor performance goes unaddressed for a long period of time, it can become a major problem. In addition, managing poor employee performance should not be delayed or a huge event. It should be quick and relatively pain free, for both the manager and the employee.

Sometimes managers may see that a team is performing well. If they haven't made time to personally observe who are and aren't the real drivers of team performance, they effectively praise everyone. To the poor performers, this reinforces their ineffective performance.  For the top performers, it can cause them to question why they should work harder and produce more.

Identify why the employee is under performing
Poor performance that is not addressed quickly is seen by the employee as a behavior that is condoned.  At the first sign of poor performance, you must focus on the unwanted behavior(s), not the employee’s personality.  Then ask yourself, "Why is that person not performing as he should?" Employees perform poorly for many reasons. However, when there's a mismatch between their performance and the consequences taken to resolve the poor performance, the poor performance continues.

Confront poor performance
Meet privately with the employee to discuss the performance issues.  Do this quickly, but never in anger. Outline your concerns.  Be clear and specific.  Use evidence and factual information to state your case and focus on the performance issues. Support your assertions with data whenever possible. In the process of confronting them, tell them what they have done, how you feel about their actions and why you feel that way. Avoid general statements such as, "You don't seem to be doing very well," since this does not focus on specific performance issues that the employee will need to address.

Improve Performance
Get the employee’s opinion of your assessment of the performance issue. Ask for their perspective of their performance and your assessment. Offer the employee a solution; the path you want them to take to improve their performance. Discuss any points where their perspective on the solution does not agree with yours. Don't simply mandate a solution for them; get them to take ownership of it. This is to ensure that they have accepted the fact that they've been performing poorly and that you are eager to see them improve.  Create a simple monitoring and evaluation plan.  For example, set weekly goals for the employee. Then meet weekly to discuss progress and status.

Poor employee performance is a challenge. Poor performers can affect the entire work environment, the team's attitudes and the organization's productivity. If it is feasible and cost-effective, offer the employee the opportunity to improve their performance and make a positive contribution to your organization. If their performance problems cannot be resolved, you may need to consider firing the employee.

David Schuchman


  1. Great article about performance. Good perspective. Educational.

  2. Weekly or by-meetings are essential for keeping the company culture at vital. Great article.


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