mark butcher associates
sustainability | skills | strategy

Managing Inadequate Performance

As a supervisor it is your job to improve performance – but sometimes the message doesn’t seem to get through. When an employee is repeatedly late, or delivers work of a sub standard nature – try the following programme:

Define and communicate what acceptable performance is You have more experience than the person you are supervising. Spell out to them what your expectations are. Give concrete examples and avoid general exhortations to ‘do better’ or ‘improve performance’.

Switch on your ‘below par’ radar Manage by walking around. Ask people about their work. When you spot something that is not good enough, bring it up as soon as possible.

It is difficult to confront inadequate performance. So try this sequence: 1) Confront the worker privately – not in front of others. A defensive response is much less likely. 2) Manage your own emotions. Don’t choose a time when you are annoyed or angry. Wait until you feel calmer. 3) Take ‘you are wrong’ out of the equation. Discussion need not be a dressing down or an argument. It should be a problem solving session where two rationale individuals try to improve the situation. Approach the session with this firmly in mind. 4) Do not get involved in small talk. Get to the point quickly. This is a time to be businesslike. 5) Do not apologise. You shouldn’t say things like ‘I’m sorry to have to mention this but’. Just say that you have noticed something and you need to find a way for this to change. 6) Look for underlying factors. There may be a very good reason why the employee is under performing. Don’t make assumptions. 7) Try to offer the resources the employee needs. Is the underperformance caused by a lack of proper tools to get the job done, not enough time, physical ailments, stress, family problems, or simply a talented employee in an under demanding role.

Set improvement goals Explicitly state the level of performance required. Make them SMART.

Establish an action plan People may not change unless you keep the pressure on. So produce an action plan which considers:

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