What do you do about an employee who isn’t performing up to expectations?

Although addressing employees’ performance issues should be one of the main tasks of a people manager but I think it is rarely taken seriously based on my experience. I think some managers’ discomfort of confrontation exceeds the potential reward of improving an employee’s performance. Pushing the problem away is the type of strategy which is usually taken to address employees’ performance issues. It is very likely that poor-performing employees move around among the organization’s departments until they end up either leaving voluntarily or involuntarily.

I believe that it is not appropriate to “pick your raisins (from the cake)” which means taking the best parts and leave the less good parts. As people managers, we cannot focus on the good performers and ignore addressing the poor performers. At the same time, managers should not spend too much time and energy on addressing performance issues.

I used to estimate the gap between employees’ current performance and the desired performance. My approach of addressing the performance issue depends on how big the gap is. If the gap is not too big, I put together a performance improvement plan and work with the employee until he/she will reach the desired performance. However, if the gap is too big, I think the employee is not a good fit for the job and it is for everyone’s (organization and employee) benefit if the employee thinks of other roles within or outside the organization. I believe that some people need to be pushed to make changes to their career path in order to utilize their hidden skills and shine. I hardly believe that anyone wants to be recognized as a poor performer. I think people just pick the wrong roles and end up working with something they don’t enjoy nor excel at. They need someone to confront them with this fact and perhaps help them pick a better alternative career path.       

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