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Managing poor performance

Performance management comprises a significant part of a business owner’s role, however, underperformance is often avoided and can lead to an unproductive and unhealthy workplace.

Establishing effective performance management systems can significantly improve problems with poor performing employees. Whether underperformance is exhibited through unsatisfactory work performance, disruptive behaviour or non-compliance with workplace rules and policies it needs to be addressed.

Poor performance should be dealt with promptly as issues may become more serious over time and can ultimately affect the entire workplace. Here are some ways to manage underperforming employees:

Identify and assess the problem
Gaining an understanding of why the employee is underperforming is the first step to generating an effective solution. There are many reasons why an employee may be performing poorly such as vague goals and expectations, interpersonal differences, not enough feedback on performance, mismatch between employee’s capabilities and the job expected of them etc.

Assess how long the problem has existed, how serious the problem is and how wide the gap between expectations and what is being delivered is before scheduling a meeting with the employee. When arranging a meeting ensure to inform the employee of the purpose of the discussion and ensure it takes place somewhere private. Be clear, specific and relaxed when talking about the issue. Ensure the employee understands what the problem is, why it is a problem, how it impacts on the workplace and the outcomes that should result from the meeting.

Devise a solution
When working out a solution allow the employee to contribute to the solution and make sure it is easy to follow. Devising a solution requires you to explore ideas by asking the employee open ended questions, offering assistance and emphasising common ground. Create a detailed plan of action which includes:

Monitor performance
Set a date for another meeting to review performance against the agreed plan of action even if the issue has been resolved. Providing positive and negative feedback to the employee should ensure performance improvements are maintained. If more serious action is required, consider further counselling and issuing formal warnings before termination of employment.

Employers need to be aware that they cannot dismiss employees in circumstances that are “harsh, unjust or unreasonable” so it is important to be fair to employees when it comes to termination of employment.

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