How to Handle Poor Performance! (Part 2)
Managing the Performance
The previous blog entry (Part 1) evolved around questions to ask when facing a performance problem with an employee. The questions are there so you can better understand the context for the performance issue.
Communication between you and your team is critical to your success and your employee’s success. Most employees are eager to perform at a higher level and your early intervention will guide them to being more productive.
This blog entry is about performance or behavior related issues and not serious workplace issues. Serious workplace issues such as discrimination, sexual harassment, drug or alcohol during business and a host of other legally driven workplace issues is not what this entry is covering. Human Resources and/or Legal departments will guide you with these serious workplace issues.
If an employee is performing lower than expected or their behavior is not acceptable, your role as their manager is to address the issue(s). You are there to set the quality of work or behavior standards. The employee’s responsibility lies in meeting those standards.
You will have a range of performance levels within your team and several different labels for employees:
•Those who need improvement
•Those who perform below standards
Poor performance issues will fall into two main areas:
•Employees who need improvement
•Employees who perform below standards
Employees who need improvement are usually new employees or someone who is taking on new job responsibilities. This employee is in the ‘learning stage’ and needs the extra support to increase their knowledge. Here are some ideas to guide you:
• Coaching the team member on the spot helps them understand how to correct their work.
• In the short run, have an open door policy with them so they feel comfortable coming to you to ask questions. Let them know you are available for the next few weeks to support their learning. The goal here is to help them learn the work and start making their own decisions.
• Have regular meetings with them until their performance is elevated.
• Find a mentor to help them.
• Locate a training program to increase their knowledge base.
Perform Below Standards
Employees who perform below standard usually have more chronic issues in their performance levels. When you notice there’s a problem with the employee’s performance or conduct in the workplace and you have already tried coaching the employee in question, counseling is the logical second step.
What is counseling? This is a more formal process to help the employee correct their performance or behavior. During a counseling session, you should make sure your employee is aware of the problem and you should impress upon them the importance and necessity of correcting it. Most employees will respond positive to this meeting and will go on to correct the problem. If the problem continues after you counsel them, you may need to evaluate their value to your team.
For the meeting, come prepared:
• Your notes on their performance or behavior issues and what change(s) need to occur. Try to limit the issues to just a few, as too many issues can overwhelm the employee and they will shut down.
• Present the issues with respect to the employee. For example, “I know that you want to perform at your best, so I want to work with you to increase your productivity. Here are some areas where you can maximize your performance.”
• Schedule meeting time with the employee
• After presenting the issues to the employee, allow them time to respond to the issues. Don’t interrupt, except to ask for more clarity. It can be challenging when you are a busy manager to listen. On the other hand, maybe you are just frustrated with the employee, as you have already addressed this issue. If the employee is repetitive or talks too much, then guide them towards summing up their main two or three points.
• Be clear with the employee what you expect them to do.
• Be prepared for you to be the problem why the employee is not performing or their inappropriate behavior. It doesn’t mean they are off the hook, as they still need to meet the standards. What it does mean is you may have to change your behavior.
• Insure that the employee is part of the solution. Have them come up with different ideas on how to handle the issue.
• Summary of meeting: Issues being addressed, discussion points, expectations around performance or behavior change, and schedule a follow up date within a reasonable time limit to evaluate the performance or behavior.
• Follow up dates: Scheduling of an appropriate time is based on the issue. If it is behavior issue, then follow up quickly. If it is performance based, then the employee may need more time to solve the issue…for example, training to increase knowledge. If it is sloppiness with their work, have frequent follow ups until the new performance levels are consistent.
If it’s a behavior issue…..coming in late, interrupting others, talking loudly on the phone or any other annoying habit that can potentially offend others, then deal with it quickly and in private and use the information above to work with the employee.
Suggestion: When a performance or behavior issue surfaces, document it immediately. This is for your eyes only unless the issue becomes chronic and you need to put it in the employee’s file. When you are documenting “issues” also include their accomplishments. This provides a broader view of the employee.
The next blog in this series on “How to Handle Poor Performance” will be focused on what if the employee just isn’t able to meet the performance or behavior standards.
How to Handle Poor Performance – Part 1
How to Handle Poor Performance – Part 3
Hiring Top Performers