Tough Conversations with Underperforming Employees

Document created by 1050210 on Nov 12, 2014
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Published Date: 04/14/2014

 

Reneé Watkins

By Reneé Watkins

 

From time to time, every manager must deal with an employee or team member who is not performing up to their potential or the demands of their position. So, what is the best way to deliver that message to the employee so as to make it clear their performance is less than expected and changes must be made if they are to continue in their current role?

 

Below are some suggestions that may help. Some of these may work better than others, depending on the personalities of the employee and manager, and the relationship between the two.

 

Make sure you are direct

 

Be direct when speaking with the employee. If you beat-around-the-bush, your meaning may come across as unclear or unimportant. By being direct and clear in your message, you are giving the employee every chance to take the initiative and improve their performance. If they fail to understand the importance of your message, they may not take it seriously enough to change.

 

Cite specifics

 

When talking with the employee about their performance, make sure you cite specific examples. There has to have been some trigger, or set of events, that led you to have this conversation with them. Detail these examples so the employee will be able to visualize what you are seeing and understand how their action (or lack of action) is hurting the organization. These kinds of details will help you to make your point.

 

Remind the employee of expectations

 

Performance standards and consequences should always be set up front with new employees during onboarding. Therefore, this type of conversation should simply be a reminder of expectations they are already aware of. You expect the best out of everyone, from start to finish, every day. Most employees will work to improve their performance, while others may decide to simply skate by and offer their bare minimum effort. Take opportunities and make time to discuss progress or lack thereof. Document the discussions, expectations and consequences.

 

Deliver a formal write-up

 

This will provide a detailed evaluation and documentation of their current performance, putting them on notice that their position with the company is in jeopardy if improvement is not made and maintained. Verbal warnings can and should be documented. A properly constructed written warning following your policy leaves no doubt as to the issues, expectations and consequences.

 

Owning their own fate

 

During a period of re-evaluation of their performance, work with the employee to set realistic goals to be achieved. Once agreed to, the ball is in the employee’s court to succeed or fail. If successful, be sure and attribute the credit to their determination. If they fail, however, you have to be strong enough not to accept any excuses for not meeting their goals. Their fate is in their hands and they must be held accountable.

 

Have a solid, clear policy in place

 

By the time you reach a point where their continued employment is in jeopardy, the employee should not be surprised by this conversation. Regular performance reviews and a clear policy on disciplinary action for poor performance should already be in place and communicated. This is their opportunity for improvement and you have stated the importance of this message. There is no excuse for their not understanding what is about to happen if their performance does not improve.

 

If you have questions about taking disciplinary action with underperforming employees, please contact a member of CAI's Advice and Resolution Team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

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