Handling a poor performer is a tough ask for any manager, No one wants to be the bastard for the day. It’s just one of those things that has to be done. Unfortunately, few do it that well.

A study by UK research institute Roffey Park found that few managers thought their organisations had the skills to deal with underperformers.

First it has to be said there could be a whole swag of reasons why people are underperforming. And sometimes, the manager has to see it from the employee’s perspective.

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, the employee mightn’t be clear what’s expected of them. Maybe there’s a mismatch between their abilities and the job they’re required to do. Maybe morale might be low in the workplace so nothing is really getting done. Or maybe there are some cultural misunderstandings. It happens.

 The Fair Work Ombudsman’s advice to managers: resolve the issues quickly and make sure you have good systems in place for feedback.

 So how to fix it? The first and most important thing is for the employee to own the problem. They have to acknowledge that there is an issue and something they have to attend. The manager is there to help. 

This can be done in several obvious ways:

1. Meet privately: Don’t address their shortcomings at a staff meeting or in a session. If you do that, they will get defensive and nothing will be achieved. Instead, schedule a time to meet and talk privately, one on one, about the issues.

2. Identify the problem: Some problems are easier to resolve than others, provided both parties are willing to do something about it. If the person is always arriving late, you should look at why it’s happening and you can discuss ways to ensure they turn up on time. If it’s dress code, again that’s an issue that can be resolved. If they’re rude to other staff members or even clients, it needs some serious discussion and measures to address the problem.

3. Retraining: With technology these days, it’s very easy for skills to become outdated. The conversation should look at what skills are needed to perform the task. Retraining can be done in a number of ways with training seminars, either in-house or external providers, simulation exercises, computer-based training or doing courses at universities or business schools.

4. Tie their job to the company’s goals: This can make a big difference because they can see what they are doing is having an impact. It makes their work meaningful. The more you can tie what they’re doing to the overall strategies of the firm, the more you will have an impact. That means drilling deep into what they’re doing and discussing. It also means monitoring it carefully.

5. Set small short term goals: Nothing breeds success like success. Once an employee can see they’re getting results, they’ll be encouraged to do more and do something they hadn’t expected.

6. Letting go: This is the final step. If everything has been done to change the situation and nothing has worked, it’s best for them to find a place that’s a better fit.

Written by Ross Fastuca @Locomote 


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