Monday, November 2, 2009

Turning Around a Problem Employee

by Toni Bowers
Takeaway: If you have an employee with a productivity or attitude problem, the temptation is often just to write that employee off and get back to business. But before you take such a drastic step, you need to identify the problem and try to solve it.

An employee with performance problems is not just a manager’s problem. It’s a problem for the whole staff. Staff members can resent taking up the slack for a poor performer, and rightly so. Hostility and anger from a problem employee can permeate and infect the whole environment. Ungrounded cynicism can also spread to the rest of your staff, even your good performers.

For these reasons, it’s important that you take action with an employee who is exhibiting problems with productivity and behavior as soon as you detect there is a problem. Here are some of the best ways to approach this tricky issue.

Dealing with the problem
Try this six-step process when helping employees improve their performance. The steps are:

1. Describe the employee's specific performance issues
• Talk about the issues, not about the employee's poor effort
• Describe the results of the employee's performance.

2. Describe the expected standards of employee performance
• Be specific. Don't say you have a “poor” attitude; instead list specific occurrences that illustrate problematic behavior.

3. Determine the cause of the performance issues
• Does the employee lack training, skills, knowledge?
• Is there a lack of motivation, incentive?
• Are there external factors involved (family, financial, etc.)?
• Are there factors beyond the employee's control affecting the performance?

4. Ask the employee for solution(s)
• What could the employee do to improve this situation?

5. Discuss each solution with the employee
• How will this solution help with the employee's problem?
• Discuss your solution(s).
• Try to jointly improve upon the solutions.

6. Agree on specific actions to be done and a time frame to implement them
• Arrange for another meeting in the future to track the progress/results of the solution.

The best way to tackle performance issues early is to use a regular performance appraisal process. At the very least, conduct performance appraisals once a year. But it’s even better to conduct smaller evaluations every few months so that any information about performance problems doesn’t come as a surprise to the employee. Also, you can set performance goals at more frequent intervals and check more readily if they’re being met.

Effectively dealing with performance issues in an employee can be a long, intensive process. But it’s best to do it right.

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