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How to Deal with Employee Performance Problems

Speaking honestly about performance issues provides the employee with the opportunity to improve.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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An anonymous reader shared this with Inc.Arabia. She is a senior marketing manager and works for a multinational company based in one of the Gulf states.

"I’m preparing to meet with an employee who seems to need coaching". The employee has positive qualities, such as the perceived ability to complete assigned tasks and a dedication to the overall concept of work.

However, there are issues:

He is reluctant to follow through on tasks he should be familiar with by now, often requiring co-workers to step in and assist, causing frustration. Additionally, he tends to spend time on tasks outside his responsibilities, leading to neglect of his primary duties.

Do you have any suggestions on how to proceed? I hope to address this without frustrating him, but instead by giving him direction and allowing him to take it from there. Any thoughts or other suggestions?

The most effective way of dealing with employee performance problems generally involves the following steps:

1. Be straightforward about the problems you’ve noticed. Clearly describe how the employee is falling short and what successful performance would look like in contrast.

2. Identify the cause of the problem by:

  • Asking the employee for their perspective: “I’d like to hear your thoughts about what’s causing these issues. What’s your sense of what might be going on?”
  • Ask your questions, such as: Does he need more training? Is he clear on his priorities? Does he have time management issues?

3. Provide suggestions for improvement based on identified factors. For example, if time management is an issue, suggest planning projects backward and setting interim deadlines to structure his work better. Align on expectations if there's a difference in understanding of his responsibilities.

After this conversation, the employee will often make the needed improvements. However, if the problem persists, revisit the issue with a more serious tone. Make it clear this is no longer routine feedback but a significant issue that needs addressing. Explain potential consequences if improvements aren’t made, such as:

“If your performance improves and you maintain that level, we’ll move forward. But if we still see these issues in a few weeks, I’ll need to put you on a formal improvement plan, and if it doesn’t improve, I’d need to let you go. My concerns are serious — you have great potential, but I need you to perform at a higher level.”

This approach is difficult but essential. Speaking honestly about performance issues provides the employee with the opportunity to improve. Too many managers avoid these uncomfortable conversations, depriving employees of the chance to learn and grow. Good luck.

Tell us your thoughts and if you have any questions or if you are facing a career situation, write to us at Ask Inc.Arabia

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