What Can You Do With a Poorly Performing Employee

No, you should not let a poorly performing employee go. At least not on the first warning, because then you will end up alone in the company. We all have our moments of weakness, yes, even you, who are reading this.

poorly performing employee

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Poor performance tolerance is one of the biggest issues employees notice in any company no matter the field of activity. It’s normal to be this way, those performing well or outstanding can never accept to carry around the ones that don’t, especially when they see there are no consequences when the latter don’t give a rat’s ass about their tasks.

Not only they don’t perform, they also stop you from progressing. This is especially true where team work is crucial and individual performance is strictly connected to other colleagues/departments – a colleague working in slow motion can hold you back and demotivate you at the same time. Needless to add how frustrating it is to take all the blame when you personally have nothing to do with it, but it’s other team members’ fault, as they didn’t do their job. This is about chronic indifference, not small, unintentional errors.

Getting back to the situation when you have such poorly performing employees among your subordinates (certainly you can think of a few), consider the following:

  • Start by establishing the objectives of each employee. Don’t say he/she is doing it wrong unless you clearly explained first what was the task;
  • You need to have some transparent methods to measure performance. You cannot evaluate if something is either good or bad without measuring;
  • Communicate directly and provide many examples and relevant data on the reasons why performance is not at expected level – do this as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the yearly performance evaluation to tell someone they are off the charts;
  • Make sure that the person involved is aware of his/her responsibilities and properly trained;
  • Take into account previous performance. If you are dealing with someone who is at the first offence, show more understanding as opposed to those who constantly perform below average;
  • Don’t use presumption of guilt, not everyone is on offside. As pops Maslow stated: if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail;
  • Identify the reason behind the lack of performance. If that person is facing (serious) personal issues don’t expect them to perform well at work. You need to show empathy and agree with them some timeframe to work things out;
  • Evaluate what goes well, what goes bad and how can you help on the short term. Don’t use the sandwich feedback: telling something good, something bad and finally something good again. Try eating a sandwich made with fabulous bread and rotten eggs, anchovy paste left in the sun, served with rotten tomatoes;
  • Set up some short term objectives that need to be measured accordingly. Also get human resources and legal department involved if necessary;
  • Schedule some extra training, coaching, mentoring, shadowing, athletics or skull massage sessions if needed;
  • Record all progress made.

The lack of performance should be addressed individually, no public executions needed; news of your lack of tolerance to poor performance will spread out anyway and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Keeping an non performing employee will sooner or later affect the entire organization, starting with the most valuable team members. As a manager, tolerating lack of performance will equivalate shooting yourself in the foot; Judgment Day will eventually come for you as well. In case all your people are performing poorly, maybe you should consider buying a really large mirror to check where you or the company has been mistaken.

The main goal when handling poor performance is to bring it back within normal parameters, by implementing a plan to improve the situation with short and medium term objectives.

If you already tried everything and got no result, perhaps it’s better for both parties involved to follow their own path. Most of the times, you are doing everyone a favor and help the employee finding a job that better suits them.

Good luck succeeding!

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