Telling an employee they are underperforming may be an intimidating prospect, especially if you are someone who dislikes confrontation. However, addressing underperformance comes with being a leader, and it’s something you have to do if you want to keep your job.

While dealing with performance issues can be difficult, handling the situation is fairly straightforward.

What is “poor performance” exactly?

Poor performance is a pattern of behavior marked by not properly handling job duties or not doing them as required by the company. It’s important to make the distinction between poor performance and poor conduct. Poor performance can be defined by a low quality of work, subpar productivity and bad results. Poor conduct is marked by attendance issues, a bad attitude, theft, violence or intentionally breaking company policies.

Determining the root cause

Before addressing the underperforming employee, it’s important to determine if the organization or management is at fault. You should establish if the employee understands what is expected, has had adequate training and isn’t being overworked. It’s also important to figure out if this is the wrong person for the job, there are personal circumstances affecting performance or there has been miscommunication.

Taking informal action

Once you have figured out the root cause(s), you need to take informal action and try to “coach” the employee away from their poor performance.

In a private, one-on-one meeting, ask the employee if they realize they are not meeting expectations, lay out what is expected and find out why these expectations are not being met. Using feedback from these initial questions, work with the employee to develop a plan for improvement. The plan should allow for enough time for the employee to correct their performance and be clear about consequences if that does not happen.

It is very important that you keep a written record of this meeting, should further action need to be taken.

Taking formal disciplinary action

Invite the employee to a formal disciplinary hearing, providing a reasonable amount of notice, and inform them they can have another employee present. At the meeting, clearly explain why you are looking to take disciplinary action and give the employee a chance to provide feedback or make a case against disciplinary action. If you decide disciplinary action is still warranted, clearly explain the action and put it into writing.

Dismissing the employee

Should poor productivity rise to the point it warrants the employee’s dismissal, an internal meeting should be held that includes human resources staff and the employee’s direct supervisor(s). Attendees should discuss the details of the situation and determine if termination is necessary. Attendees should also ensure that any decision to terminate is backed by thorough documentation and isn’t at all based in some form of discrimination.

Finally, the employee should be told of the decision in a face-to-face meeting with at least one other witness present. The employee’s response to the news should be documented and those notes should be attached to the employee’s personnel file.

At Action Group Staffing, we fully support our clients in their employee coaching, training and disciplinary actions. If your company is currently looking for a staffing partner, please contact us today

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