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    How to Address Underperformance in Your Employees

    How to Address Underperformance in Your Employees

    Underperforming employees can cause a ripple effect throughout your organization. An employee that does not meet performance expectations can engender feelings of resentment from co-workers who are then required to pick up the slack in order to compensate for their colleague's shortcomings. They may also indirectly encourage co-workers to lower their own performance bar.

    At the very least, they will create a disruption to your company's team spirit, which can significantly impact overall workplace production. Employees who don't care cause friction and lower office morale. With the current labor shortage situation, it's important for companies to get the most out of their work force. But how can you inspire underperforming employees to care about their role, improve their productivity and attain their full potential?

    Learn to recognize underperformance.

    There are several behavioral aspects that may indicate an employee is underperforming:

    • Is the employee failing to comply with deadlines, complete tasks, or meet expectations?
    • Does the employee seem disinterested in their role?
    • Does the employee interact or socialize with their colleagues?
    • Is the employee engaging in behavior that disrupts co-workers?
    • Does the employee display a negative attitude about the work or the workplace?
    • Is the employee chronically late for work? Do they often call in sick?
    • Does the employee spend a lot of time on their phone? Do they take long breaks?

    If you have noticed an employee displaying one or more of these behaviors, it is time to do an immediate assessment of their performance record for the past few months. This will help to pinpoint if the behaviors developed over time or if they have always been there. Something may have changed in the employee's work or homelife situation that has caused a shift in their focus. You can work to address this by discussing the situation with them and jointly developing potential solutions.

    Discover the reason(s) behind the underperformance.

    An employee may fail to meet expectations for a variety of reasons.

    • Work stress. The role they have been placed into may prove to be more stressful than they anticipated, which is affecting the employee's ability to focus on the task at hand. Is there a high level tension with supervisors or other employees? Are there too many unattainable deadlines to meet? Are the employee's skills and experience insufficient to allow them to meet their expected level of performance?
    • Workplace environment. Is the physical work space detracting from the employee's ability to perform? Does their work station provide sufficient light? Is there a source of noise or other distraction close by (such as co-workers who talk a lot)? Do they have access to all of the tools and resources they need to do their job properly?
    • Inadequate training. There is no other single factor that will prepare an employee for their position than proper and complete training. If the employer fails to provide this at the outset, they are grooming the employee for failure.
    • Lack of job satisfaction. The employee may have discovered that the job - and the company culture - is not what they expected. This leads to low morale and a lack of motivation to make an effort.
    • No oppportunity for upward mobility. If there are no opportunities for career development, the employee may see the job as a dead-end situation. This again leads to a lack of motivation.
    • Home life stress. There may be underlying personal issues that are affecting the employee's physical, mental and emotional well-being. These can range from marital problems to illness, substance abuse to financial worries.

    Do the groundwork and prepare to meet with the employee.

    • Talk to the employee's supervisor, department head, and other persons who have noted incidents of underperformance.
    • Document each incident with respect to the employee's failure to meet expectations, including failure to abide by company policies, standards and codes of conduct.
    • Schedule a private meeting to address the situation and try to discover what's behind the underperformance.
    • Don't be confrontational and don't assume you know the reasons. You need to ask the right questions to get to the bottom of the problem.
    • Start the meeting by reviewing the specific incidents of underperformance and explaining how it affects other workers and the company.

    Work together to solve the problem.

    • Discuss the issues with the employee and brainstorm ways that they can improve their performance. Provide them with clear benchmarks and be open about discussing current issues and obstacles.
    • Set a reasonable date for changes to occur and for the two of you to meet again to reevaluate the situation.
    • Sometimes a little break for reflection and a reminder of your support is all an employee needs to free themselves from prior restraints and make the improvements they had in them all along.
    • Remember that not every person is going to be the right fit for your team.

    Evaluate employees on an ongoing basis.

    Employers need to continually monitor and evaluate the performance of all employees, regardless of how long they have been in the workplace. Daily tasks can easily become routine and bad habits can become engrained. Regularly remind your employees of the individual benchmarks they should be reaching within their positions. Be clear about what your expectations are.

    Recognize an employee's progress.

    Every improvement in the employee's performance level should be recognized and appreciated in a tangle way. Praise them for the progress they've made and make them aware of the positive impact that progress has had on the team. This will inspire them to continue to make improvements.

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