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Managing the Good Performer Gone Bad

Employees are wonderful… until they are not. Often, employees become derailed because of personal challenges or changes in their work environment or roles. When looking at poor performance check your head by asking these questions.

  1. Is it the fault of the system? – As Deming said, “the system is the problem!”. Is this person mismatched? Round peg in a square whole? Has their job “moved past them”? Are they getting the support they used to get or need?
  2. Is there a skills gap that can be cured by training?
  3. Are they being managed any differently? Perhaps a new boss, or new team members are involved?
  4. What would a third party like me say looking at the situation? That third party might be HR or another manager in a different department. Or me :)
  5. Is the employee aware of their poor performance? Have they been getting regular feedback? Has that feedback been documented? Have you considered putting them on a 30 day performance improvement plan?
  6. Have they somehow been “demotivated” and become disengaged? For example, did they try to push forward a project only to have it squashed and now they’ve lost their mojo?
  7. Do they have a mental disability? It could be depression or drug addiction or alcoholism. While you don’t have to ask them if there is such a problem you can remind them of the resources available, like an EAP program should they have any limitations on the ability to do their work.
  8. If it’s not the system and the issue lies with the employee then have them own it. Ask me for a copy of the Employee Correction Form I designed. This allows poor performance to “own” their performance and what happens to them when they do not pick their game up.
  9. What does your gut tell you about this person? Fact is, most poor performers don’t turn around and improve their performance. Things only tend to get worse over time. If this is the track you’re on then do yourself and them a favor and let them go so you can quit torturing each other. If they are a good person, and they did not engage in any outrageous conduct, then do what you can to help them get a job where they can fit in.
  10. Remember this- you can unconditionally care about a person but that does not mean you have to have an unconditional employment relationship with them. Don’t confuse the two.

A final note. I find I tend to torture myself…and others… when people don’t match my expectations of who they “ought to be”. True at work and at home. I also realize I am far more effective when I deal with people “as they are”. It is what it is. There is no benefit to gain by adding the emotional override of “shoulding” on the situation.

Take a deep breath, follow these recommendations and you’ll do just fine!

Managing the Emotions of Change

Months ago I had the opportunity to present at DisruptHR on managing the emotions of change. You get 20 slides and 5 minutes to do it! Remember the magic words- coax, encourage and inspire!