Dealing with underperformers can be difficult, but it is necessary. What is your go-to when you have a low performer? The key to understanding performance comes down to two things:
- Does the employee have the ability to complete the work?
- Is the employee willing to do the work?
Can-they versus will-they are two very different things and should considered when addressing performance issues.
If you have an employee that you know is perfectly capable of doing the work but chooses not to complete assignments, this is a behavioral issue. It is important to understand why they have chosen not to complete assignments. Has this performance issue been on-going? Or is it something new? If it is an on-going issue, your employee has, for some reason, lost motivation to do their work. Why? If it is a recent issue, there may be something going on in their life that is distracting them. Talk to them. Try to understand the issue. Try to help.
Let’s go back to whether or not your employee has the ability to complete their work. Again, as their leader, it is important you try to understand why they are not getting things done.
- Do they have all the necessary tools?
- Have you provided clear, specific direction?
- Do they fully understand the assignment?
Lack of performance should not begin with punishment. It should begin with understanding by the leader. Listening. Understanding. Leaders: this is your job.
Here are a some steps to helping work through under performers:
- Listen to your employee(s)
- Understand their issues
- Diagnose the problem
- Make sure you have the right person in the role
- Work with your employee to create a plan for improvement
- Provide tools, training, time for improvement
- Provide clear direction and expectations. Leaders: it is always important to self-reflect and make sure you are not the problem.
- Have periodic check-ins to monitor progress
- Reward improvements
The worst thing a leader can do with an under performer is to do nothing. It is unfair to your entire team. Address underperformance before it becomes a reflection on you. Hold employees to the same level of performance accountability. Sure, some employees will perform better or worse than others. What I mean by this statement is do not allow some to underperform while holding others at a higher level of accountability. This will wear on your employees and they will feel as though there is favoritism and unequal treatment. Eventually, your top performers will either quit working so hard or they will go elsewhere.
Termination of an underperformer should be your absolute last resort. I am not saying it doesn’t need to happen on occasion but I am saying that as a leader, it is your responsibility to make sure you have tried everything to help your employee prior to termination.