Debbie McGrath Debbie McGrath

Are You Challenged by Poor Performance?

October 1, 2013

Posted to by Christina Lattimer, owner, People Discovery;

As a young manager, the second-biggest challenge to wrap my head around was to identify when lagging performance became poor performance. The biggest challenge then was to determine what to do once that identification had been made. The reason tackling poor performance was an even bigger challenge than recognizing it? Once I spotted the problem, I then had to deal with the personality of the poor performer, and people react differently to the same information.

In those early days of my management career, I also was the youngest on the team; telling someone they weren’t cutting it was particularly daunting. As my experience grew I learned to help and support the poor performer in a much kinder and effective . Here’s what I learned.

Managing poor performance can be one of the most stressful parts of managing a team. Good managers know that the vast majority of employees want to come to work to do a good job. When an employee underperforms, it’s often either because:

• They are in the wrong job;

• They have problems outside of work; or

• They simply need more knowledge, information or understanding.

It takes a skilled and experienced manager to expertly raise poor performance. Often teams become less than enchanted with their manager when the manager fails to address poor performance, even when the impact isn’t extreme. One of the most frustrating experiences for a team is when it must carry a member not pulling his own weight—frustration can turn to stress when the manager fails to act.

Poor performance can appear at any stage in the employment life-cycle. Managers must be extra vigilant during any trial period. I have seen managers give new employees the benefit of the doubt and live to rue the day they confirmed a permanent appointment, when they had experienced niggling doubts during that time and failed to listen to their intuition.

Here are some simple s to help prevent problems, and, when they do occur, what to do about them.


• Miss the telling signs in the trial period. Follow up on any issues that arise during that time.

• Wait until the next performance review. Deal with emerging problems as soon as they become apparent.

• Develop an attitude or fixed view of the employee; there may be many reasons for under-performance.

• Ignore what other people say about someone’s under-performance. Subtly check it out, if you don’t at first agree.

• Wait until a major incident or disaster occurs.

• Wait until everyone else in the workplace becomes totally fed up with the under-performance.

• Confuse a performance issue with a conduct problem. Misconduct impacts performance, but they are two totally different issues.

• Wait until the under-performer goes off on sick leave.


• Have a fair and equitable of measuring performance for all employees.

• Use your internal policies and procedures for managing under-performance. Your policies should be designed to assist you to get it right. If your policies hinder the process, rewrite them.

• Identify the precise areas of under-performance. Exactly what element of performance is the employee not achieving? Areas of performance include productivity, efficiency, effectiveness and an underdeveloped skill set.

• Gather clear examples and facts that demonstrate level of performance. Do not rely on hearsay or niggling doubts.

• Keep an open mind about the reasons for under-performance. You may not know all that is going on in the employee’s life.

• Talk to the under-performer as soon as possible, and listen to what he has to say. Let him know you are concerned, not accusing.

• Ask the under-performer about external factors, his own views about his performance, and what he thinks his expectations are. Ask about training and skill sets.

• Develop a clear and smart action plan. The outcomes of the action plan must prove to you that the employee is willing and able to bridge the performance gap, and sustain it without constant supervision.

• Be clear about the timeline in which you require the performance to improve, and how long you’ll wait before you relax monitoring.

• Meet regularly and give honest, accurate feedback about progress. Listen and amend the action plan if the employee cites credible reasons for lack of progress, but stick to your agreed timeline except in the case of exceptional circumstances.

• Offer support in terms of training, mentoring, materials and guidance.

• Be kind. The majority of people want to do well at work and it can be a nightmare experience for those whose performance isn’t up to scratch. Genuinely wish them well and hope that they succeed.

• Be confident. You know how you want your team to work. Don’t settle for anything less, and expect great—not mediocre —results for your team.

If you manage poor performance well and manage to raise performance, then this not only instills a sense of achievement for the employee, but also gives a great message out to other staff that you are fair and tuned in. Your team members may not recognize that you’re tackling poor performance, but they certainly will know if it is not being addressed at all. MF
Industry-Related Terms: Case
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms

Technologies: Management


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