How to manage under-performing staff

managing under-performing staffIf you run a small business, or you are in any type of management role, then it is likely at some point you will be faced with the challenge of dealing with an employee who is not meeting performance expectations.

This is not an easy situation for many people to handle, particularly when they are new to staff management. With more experience will come more confidence - but until then, the question remains how to handle the situation.
  • Do nothing?
For some managers, their inclination is to do nothing and hope the problem corrects itself. However, the risk with this approach is that the poor performance may then permeate through the rest of the team.

For example, if an employee has been arriving late for work and you don't do anything about it, then it won't be long before others in the team might start thinking to themselves "Well, if she can get away with it, why should I bother hurrying to get in on time?". The lower standard can permeate through the entire team

So doing nothing and simply hoping the employee will self-correct is not a wise course of action

  • Rebuke them?

Some mangers will simply deliver a sharp reminder to the employee about what is expected. And sometimes a reprimand may be necessary - but not until you've done this ......

  • Discuss the matter

We all make mistakes now and then - even the best of us can fumble or drop the football, so to speak. Sometimes maybe because we were rushed, or maybe because we were distracted. A good employee will quickly admit to their mistake and lookfor ways of fixing things up

But under-performance is something a bit different. It's more than just an isoalted mistake and instead something that you've observed has become too common and almost the norm for the employee.

You need to sit down, with some privacy and discuss the matter with the employee in  a composed manner. Describe the concern that you have, give some examples of what you've observed and explain in what way the issue is hurting the business, your customers or the rest of the team. Then give the employee a chance to explain and listen to what they have to say - with an open mind

Identify the cause of the under-performance

Under-performance can be caused by any number of factors. For example, it could be ......
  1. The employee wasn't clear about the expectation in the first place
  2. They haven't been properly trained
  3. Something is getting in the way .... whether it's a personal issue, a system problem, or conflict with another member of the team
  4. They aren't suited to the job
Once you flush out the underlying reason for the under-performance, then you can discuss how to improve the situation moving forward. The solution could be for example, clearer job definitions, more training or developing an agreed procedures manual as reference. Or maybe it turned out to be a bit of a motivation issue and they would benefit from having a bit more challenge added to their role.

But what if it's not going to work out"

Sometimes you may find that an employee is simply not suited to the role and they are lacking any enthusiasm for the work. Maybe this is because they thought the job was going to be something different and it doesn't match their interests. There will be times when a parting of the ways will need to be discussed.

And in this situation, it's usually better to make the break quick and clean, rather than have it fester. You might even decide to offer the employee an extra 2 weeks salary as an inducement to leave immediately.

If the performance issue is a serious one in which you are contemplating discipline or employee dismissal, then consult with an expert who can properly guide you through your legal obligations under Fair Work Australia. (depending upon the size of your business). Even the employee with a poor work ethic must still be treated with "due process" - so ensure you follow the proper steps.

By the way, if you're after more great people management tips, have a look at Management Skills Development

  • In Conclusion

In conclusion, do not ignore an employee's under-performance. Be willing to discuss the matter in a level way with the staff member, and you may discover that the cause of the issue is something that can be fairly easily resolved.

As the manager, these are the issues that you are now responsible to identify and action - just make sure you first give it some thought and prepare yourself. And remember, when you have the discussion, try to do at least as much listening as you do talking!

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