How to Deal with Poor Performers and Non Performers?

Performance Management (Appraisals)
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Belinda Coetzee
Analyst, South Africa

How to Deal with Poor Performers and Non Performers?

How does one manage poor performing employees and how do you deal with someone that comes to work that is not productive at all (being drunk, hangover)? They claim that they work for that matter.
Do you send them home? Or do you keep such person at work?
How do you handle them if you keep such employees at work.

  Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Short Guide to Dealing with Poor Performance of an Employee

Good question! Last week we focused on improving the performance of employees who are doing just fine in their complex jobs. Handling a situation of poor performance by an employee in your team is a different, yet equally important, and complex management skill... What are the main steps and issues?

First of all: Don't jump to conclusions, quick fixes or actions. Start with a personal meeting and actively listen to what the employee has to say about the situation. Avoid making assumptions. Ask questions instead, like if there any special personal circumstances? Examine the issues and concerns the employee brings up.

Determine if you’re dealing with a consistent or temporary non-performer. Is she (he) currently overloaded or stressed but normally a good, performing employee?

Then perform a brief diagnosis of the reasons for the poor performance by assessing what caused it. There are typically 2 main causes of poor performance of an employee (apart from the 0. PERSONAL OR TEMPORARY circumstances) and you need to apply situational management to them:
  1. COMPETENCE / ABILITY. This includes a person's aptitude (natural ability to do something), and also any training or learning resources the person received. Typical indicators of low ability are:
    - Low aptitude (natural ability to do something)
    - Low intelligence
    - Low skill level
    - Low knowledge level
    - Difficult or complex tasks
    - Poor performance despite of strong effort
    - No or little improvement over time
    - Was assigned to a too demanding job after hiring or was promoted to one later on

    Now that you know the reason(s), you can try to enhance the person's cabilities. If the performance gap is not too big, consider providing extra help, training, coaching, reassigning him/her. If the gap is too big or nothing else works, be ready to let the person go. That could be better for your team and organization. After all, holding onto an underachieving employee may result in a ripple effect of negativity, low moral and quality of work which may demotivate others. Ensure timely assistance of HR / legal.
  2. MOTIVATION. The commitment and desire of the person to perform and improve.

    If the motivation level is low, you should first provide good and clear feedback about it, so the person understands your opinion and that improvement will be needed.
    Also you might set more detailed, clear and SMART performance goals, and/or provide regular assistance or coaching (either by yourself or by someone else).
    You could create and agree upon a performance improvement plan or ask the employee to create one.
    Follow up and monitor the progress.
    If the motivation level is extremely low or if there is not enough improvement, you'll have to be ready to let the employee go.
A final tip: Keep records during the whole proces described above, in case you need evidence later on.
Hope this is helpful... Any builds?

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