The impact of under performers
When a team member is under performing, they have an impact across the team. Without a doubt, on the manager, the team and the individual themselves.
The manager spends a disproportionate amount of time managing the person and their challenges. Consequently, there’s little time for doing your own job and focussing on the rest of the team. It’s stressful.
Moreover, it drags the team down. Additionally, they have to pick up the slack and it can lead to feelings of resentment.
The individual themselves often feels de-motivated. Thinking ‘what’s the point?’ and ‘nothing is ever good enough’. Unfortunately the longer the under performance continues, the worse the situation becomes.
Key steps to address under performance
Companies need to move away from ‘old style’ performance conversations to address under performance. And move to ‘coaching-based’ performance conversations. To make this shift the key steps are:
- Move away from annual or infrequent performance conversations. Moving towards more frequent coaching conversations, where the focus is on: what is we are trying to achieve? What is the progress? What assistance do you need to achieve your goals?
- Shift from the manager writing the plan. Rather towards the staff member being responsible and accountable for their own plan.
- Change from performance plans being a response to poor performance and a remedial activity; and towards those plans being an every-day way of tracking progress, success and opportunities for improvement.
But for now, consider two alternative starts to a performance conversation:
- We need to discuss your under performance.
- I want to talk about how we can work together to shift your performance…from where it is now, to where we need it to be.
The first statement is likely to cause the person you are speaking to, to take a sharp breath in, even hold their breath. They may be trying to listen to you. But the average person is going to start to go into ‘fight, flight or freeze’ mode. Depending the tone of the conversation, they may feel the need to start to justify themselves, make excuses or even move the blame to others. The performance conversation sets off on the wrong path and is likely to continue down that path.
In contrast, the second statement is a lot wordier. You can fix it to make it more comfortable. It’s still a difficult performance conversation. But the key with this statement is that it is 100% less likely to evoke defensiveness from a team member. It is about working together. To move from where the person is now, to where they need to be.
How to make conversations easier
A conversation with someone who needs to change their performance become easier over time if managers foster a culture of openness, trust and giving and receiving feedback. A focus on continuous improvement, rather than once-off conversations, means that manager can address changes or shifts that are required in the moment and ensure a spirit of working together to achieve the team and organisational objectives.
**Please note, any performance conversations need to be conducted in line with your organisation’s policies and procedures. This article should be considered as general commentary, rather than a fixed guideline or something that occurs outside of formal processes and procedures.