"One of our employees isn't performing well; what should we do?"
If you've ever had this conversation with your team about how to give feedback without crushing their confidence, you're not alone.
However, giving feedback is essential before tagging someone as an underperformer.
Here are certain things you should do:
- First, try to identify the main issue. Is it a lack of skills? Is it poor motivation? Is it something else entirely?
- Secondly, ensure that you have set clear expectations for the individual's performance. If they don't know what's expected of them, holding them accountable gets all the more difficult.
- Third, give the person adequate time to improve their performance. This may mean providing additional coaching or training.
- Finally, keep an open mind and be willing to consider other factors that may be impacting their performance. For example, are they dealing with personal issues that are affecting their work?
Once you know the cause, you can use it to course correct the problem.
How do you evaluate underperformance?
Underperformance is a common plight among teams and employees on all levels. It occurs when an employee's quality of work decreases below expectations. While the characteristics of underperforming employees and the severity of their performance vary, the following behaviors often demonstrate underperformance:
- Misconduct (aka not demonstrating the right behaviors or competencies): Disrespective, unacceptable or negative behavior.
- Failure to achieve goals: Unable to execute duties satisfactorily, deterioration in skills.
- Noncompliance: Refusal to comply with rules, policies, or procedures.
While the first two are primary behaviors to evaluate an employee's performance, the third one also falls under the same umbrella but is not directly related to their performance.
Here are a few common parameters used to evaluate employee performance:
- Productivity: Perhaps, this is one of the most important parameters to consider when evaluating performance. Productivity can be measured in terms of the quality of work delivered within the said timeline.
- Interpersonal skills: Factors such as the ability to communicate effectively, work well in a team and resolve conflicts is also equally important to consider while evaluating an employee's performance.
- Accountability: Taking individual responsibility or ownership and being able to answer for their own actions.
- Initiatives: Another key parameter to consider is an employee's initiative and creativity. This refers to the ability to come up with new ideas and solve problems in a creative way.
- Work ethic: This is nothing but dedication to the job, motivation, and willingness to put in extra effort when necessary.
While these are only some parameters, ultimately, it is up to the employer to decide which parameters are most important for their business and which ones to use when assessing an employee's performance.
Evaluating organizational flaws/weaknesses
Before evaluating employee behavior, one of the first things to do is to look inwards at your organizational behaviors. Identifying and resolving internal flaws or weaknesses is highly beneficial and helps you make fair decisions.
Look at your organization's overall performance; if there are areas where your company isn't performing up to par, it could indicate a weakness. When resolving organizational flaws, try facilitating check-ins with employees and simply ask them about their experiences. If they have unresolved issues, try to get to the root of their concerns. This helps you identify the areas where there may be potential blockers.
By evaluating your organization's flaws and weaknesses, you can ensure that you don't wrongfully judge an employee and take the necessary steps to improve your organization's overall performance.
Why is feedback to an underperforming employee important?
Underperforming employees may feel discouraged or unmotivated, and feedback can help an employee feel valued and motivated to improve their performance.
Here are three core benefits of feedback:
- Feedback is vital to all underperforming employees in order to help them understand what they need to work on and how to improve their work.
- Feedback helps managers identify areas where the employee may need additional support.
- Feedback is an important part of effective communication between managers and employees and can help to build trust and mutual respect.
How to give negative feedback positively
Giving negative feedback can be tough, but it's important to do it in a way that is constructive and positive. As a manager, it's even more challenging, which is why it's important to establish an open, trusting relationship with your team.
Here are a few tips on how to do just that:
- Be specific with your feedback. For example, instead of saying, "you're doing a great job," say, "I really liked how you handled that customer service issue."
- Ensure that your feedback is timely and it's given soon after the action takes place or at least in a week's time. This keeps it meaningful and relevant and ensures that it's fresh in the mind of both of you. Conducting an effective 1:1 with an underperforming employee takes time and effort, but it is valuable for managers to assess employee progress and identify areas of improvement. We've made it easier for you with this handy template for your next 1:1.
- Avoid using "you" statements. For example, don't say, "you need to work on your attitude." Instead, try "I've noticed that you seem to be having a lot of negative interactions with customers. What can we do to turn that around?"
- Try to focus on the behavior, not the person. For example, "I noticed that you raised your voice when you were speaking to the customer. Can we please try to keep our voices down when we're dealing with them?"
- Avoid giving criticism that is vague or nonspecific. For example, "You're not doing a good job." It's much more helpful to say, "I noticed that you didn't smile when you greeted the customer. Can we please try to make sure we smile when we're interacting with them?"
- Finally, end on a positive note. Thank them for their time, and let them know that you appreciate their efforts.
Keep the following tips in mind while giving advice:
- Give the feedback in person, not in public
- Make it actionable and leave room for discussion
- Come up with a solution together
- Be mindful of your tone and delivery
- Remember to follow up and recognize achievements
By following these, you can create a fair and objective assessment to help your team grow and develop in their careers. Read more about how to give feedback on our Manager Effectiveness Ebook.
Although a time-consuming process, dealing with an underperforming employee can be challenging, however, most underperforming or disengaged employees are more willing to embrace a collaborative effort that guides them to do their work better.
Always remember to first try and understand their reasons before labeling an employee as an underperformer, and then you can move forward to tackle it with an action plan.