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How to correct poor performance in the workplace

If a member of your team is genuinely performing poorly in the workplace, then you need to act now. Delay will only make matters worse.

First, look back at the objectives that you set for the person:

  • Were they realistic?
  • Were they achievable?
  • Was the time frame reasonable, given the rest of their workload?
  • Have other priorities taken precedence?
  • Was the objective clear enough?

Second, consider the person:

  • Do they understand the objectives and know what they should be doing?
  • Do they believe and want to do the job?
  • Do they think they have a better way of doing the job?
  • What do they think they will get if they do the job?
  • Does the job overstretch them and send them into panic?
  • Do they think that something else is more important?
  • Are they getting enough feedback?
  • Do they realise that they are underperforming?
  • Are they under stress from factors outside work?

Third, consider the environment:

  • Do they have the tools to do the job?
  • Do the systems and processes allow them to do the job?
  • Do they have the assistance they need?
  • Are other tasks getting priority?
  • What other external things influence their performance?

Remember though, this is only your point of view and the person who is not meeting their targets may not agree with your assessment. Really try to empathise with them and you will better understand why they are underperforming.

It’s also important to be emotionally detached and not get angry about their performance, as this won’t solve anything.

The next stage is to discuss with the underachiever everything we have looked at so far and get their perspective on things. Ensure that they are able to be open and honest with you, even if you get feedback that you don’t like about your own part in the situation. 

Assist the person see the effects of their behaviour from other people’s perspectives, including your own and anyone else who is immediately affected. The reasons for the poor performance will become apparent, and then it is a matter of addressing them.

If you identify that the poor performance is due to lack of knowledge, training can rectify this. There may be a company programme that would be suitable, or it might just be a simple case of the person working with another, more experienced member of staff, shadowing what they do for a while.

If the objectives were not clear to the person, you need to re-set them.

If the person is genuinely unaware that their performance is poor, and yet others think it is, you might consider a 360-degree process, which will ensure they get the broad-based feedback they need.

Note that if whatever it is that is affecting performance is external to the work environment, you may recommend counselling or perhaps the HR department may be able to help.

Whatever you decide to do, you need to create and agree a clear action plan with the person. This should include specific steps and checkpoints along the way to an agreed target and it’s a very good idea to document the plan and even get the person to sign a copy so it has an air of importance to them.

The action plan would also include features to mitigate the risk of a repeat of the poor performance, despite your best efforts. To this end, you need to consider what sort of monitoring needs to be in place, and also what contingency plans.

Post courtesy of People Alchemy – for access to the Alchemy for Managers online resource visit http://www.peoplealchemy.co.uk/catalyst

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