How to Address Poor Work Performance
A successful workplace is a lot like a winning football team: everyone has a role to play and, ideally, everyone is accountable to one another. Penalties and missed shots can be costly, but should be expected from time to time, while the occasional goal benefits the whole team.
Sometimes, though, managers have to make the difficult decision to cut their losses when someone’s performance just isn’t up to snuff. Even all-stars can lose their touch mid-season. As in football, if you want your workplace to perform like a winning team, you need to know how to address poor work performance one player at a time.
When Poor Work Performance is a Failure of Management
Smart, capable, and skilled employees can and often do fail to deliver a quality work product for reasons beyond their control. For instance, maybe they were not the right person for the job to begin with.
Applicants often follow the mantra of “fake it ’til you make it,” which sometimes works out, but can also set them on the path to failure without constant performance management. Make sure your preferred candidate is a strong fit for the job and your company’s culture before you hire them.
Other reasons for underperformance include inadequate training, failure to clearly communicate goals, or an unwillingness to adjust management styles for different employees.
These generally come down to poor communication or lack of adaptability from managers and employees alike. For example, some workers may respond better to emails, while others may prefer visual instructions for a given project or assignment.
Finally, it is important that managers motivate their staff in order to get the best out of them. This does not mean micromanaging their every move or leading them in group chants; you simply need to make sure they are being challenged and doing work that is meaningful to them. Sometimes it helps to switch up their workload so they are not performing the same task each day—boredom can lead to poor work performance.
Essentially, to address employee performance issues effectively, you want to ask under-performers what you can do to help them achieve their goals and the goals of the company.
Offer Constructive Feedback Early and Often
When an employee falters or is on a downward trajectory with the quality of their work, you need to step in sooner rather than later. Do not wait for a scheduled performance review or the end of a probationary period.
For one, early (and positive) intervention will give them the tools they need to course correct. Maybe it was just a minor communication breakdown, or they needed additional training or support but were too shy to ask; regardless, good, consistent performance management helps you and your employees.
Keeping a record of these interactions (including both feedback and opportunities to improve) will help make your case should you need to terminate the employee. If you abruptly decide to let someone go without this process, the termination will be more stressful for everyone involved and is more likely to end in a protracted grievance process or even litigation.
Feedback and periodic check-ins should also be part of your regular performance management and reviews. You certainly don’t want to cram the night before a review because you failed to keep records throughout the review period.
Terminate Employees With Dignity
So, you have tried different tactics, and it still did not work out. Not everything in life does, but it is still important to treat departing employees with dignity and respect. Before you show them the door, though, are you certain you gave them opportunities to truly understand and correct their poor work performance issues?
This is not only fair to the employee, but it is also the least costly solution for your company. If all else fails, when you tell them (privately) that you are terminating their employment, you want to briefly discuss why they are being fired using these earlier performance management interventions as context.
In most cases, termination is a highly emotional experience and can leave employees feeling angry, confused, and bewildered. They also may have a lot of questions. You need to anticipate that, but do not be overcome by your emotions.
Your job is to manage your team, so be respectful but also firm. Having a solid plan to guide you can help ensure the termination goes right. It will also help morale if your employees know you are fair but also decisive.
Minimise Poor Work Performance by Drafting the Right Candidates
No matter how well prepared you are as a manager, sooner or later you will have to deal with substandard performance by an employee. However, there are steps you can take to minimise this, especially during the hiring process. Increase your goals, reduce your penalties, and run your company with a stellar team by posting your job openings with Monster.