Every manager will have one or two poor performers in their unit or department. They may have inherited these individuals when they assumed the manager’s position and now must deal with them by either turning them around or terminating them for poor performance.
Employees’ negative behaviors often impact their overall performance and mirror their personal skills, attitudes and levels of discipline and perseverance.
Many individuals have the “right stuff” to be successful, and only need guidance and direction to focus their abilities and increase and sustain their performance.
It is essential for managers to be able to distinguish between employees who can be rehabilitated and those who should find another company and/or profession.
People who are being unfair to both themselves and the company by only surviving in their job need frank talk about their career options.
On the other hand, employees who are struggling but have the ambition or potential can, with the proper guidance and direction, be turned into above-average, even excellent performers.
It is often more sensible financially to work with these individuals rather than recruit and train new people, and also from an ethical perspective these people deserve the opportunity to turn themselves and their work around.
Managers must have a plan and structure to transition struggling people into better-than-average performers. The following steps can be used to turn a poor performer into a highly productive employee:
Define Performance Levels
Many employees are genuinely unaware of what constitutes acceptable behavior and performance. Often a manager will inherit several people who were simply not properly informed as to what is expected of them. Past managers may have dropped the ball, having failed to work with these individuals to develop their potential.
The first step a manager must take is to inform the employee that his or her behavior is unacceptable and that it is negatively impacting their performance. The employee should be educated as to the various levels of performance that are acceptable and a realistic time frame established for rehabilitation and bringing his or her work into line with established standards.
Managers must take the time to review and analyze the employee’s typical work-related performance and activities in order to identify the specific behaviors that must be eliminated, modified or replaced with more productive efforts.
Such discussions can be sensitive and put the individual on the defensive. He or she must be made to understand that the time and effort being expended is done so with the belief that his or her performance can be improved. They should also understand that if the manager did not think this the case he or she would have been removed from the company.
Tactfully done, this should motivate the employee to change and make them more amenable to recommendations to improve their performance. The manager should further make it clear that a failure to improve adequately could well have dire repercussions.
Establish Coaching Plan
The manager, with the employee’s assistance, should develop a realistic and attainable coaching plan to assist him or her to change their behaviors and achieve acceptable levels of performance.
The coaching plan should be confined to a particular time frame with specific objectives met by predetermined points. Each goal and objective should be attainable and easily measured by both parties. The full responsibility for their implementation falls on the employee with the manager providing full support and assistance as required.
Commit to Goals and Objectives
Once a coaching plan is developed and agreed upon by both parties, it is important that both the employee and manager commit themselves to the outlined goals and objectives.
While the employee will carry the majority of accountability for the plan, the manager must commit to fulfilling his or her portion of the responsibility as completely as possible if it is to be successful. This may include providing the employee individualized training and reinforcement as well as other commitments of time and energy.
If managers want these individuals to make a positive change, they must actively work with them toward these goals. Developing a plan and leaving these individuals without adequate supervision and support is a recipe for failure—and is unfair. It builds his or her expectations for improved performance and will result in total demoralization when they are unable to make the necessary changes on their own.
Manage Goals and Objectives
The implementation of the coaching plan is the most critical element of resolving negative behaviors and turning an employee’s performance around. Both employee and manager must actively manage the goals and objectives with the employee actively working toward their accomplishment and the manager keeping them focused and on track.
This means he or she must positively reinforce the employee’s desirable behaviors and provide redirection when old behaviors resurface. Additionally, as the manager coaches their employee, he or she is providing constructive criticism to guide and direct them in attaining their goals and objectives.
Measure Progress Against Goals
As coaching plans are implemented, managers must measure the employee’s progress at regular intervals and provide full and sufficient feedback in order for them to make needed adjustments. As the employee progresses toward the attainment of his or her goals and objectives, monitoring can be less frequent and intensive.
When the employee happily does meet the stated goals and objectives, the manager should celebrate the individual’s success to reinforce their good work. While some managers will assume they are just doing what is expected of them, any major change is worthy of celebration.
Excerpt: Negative Employee Attitudes: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)