Handling difficult conversations is one of the reasons you got where you are. Another reason is that one day you had a manager who was patient enough to teach and guide you, to accept your mistakes, and to allow you the opportunity to learn from them. Now that you’re in that position, you have the duty to your company and your staff to afford them the same opportunity.
You may be tempted to allow poor performance to slide, hoping it will improve by itself. It won’t. An underperforming employee can have a negative impact on the rest of the workplace, because other employees are forced to pick up the slack. This can lead to feelings of resentment which could ultimately lead to the wrong staff members leaving the business.
Tips to handle these situations:
Assess the situation objectively
Is this an employee who consistently does not meet performance standards, or a good employee who has hit a slump? Look at each situation in isolation. Try not to let the frustrations of missing that deadline cloud your overall picture. There could be a combination of numerous factors that contributed to the deadline being missed. It’s important not to point all the blame in one direction. Also, it may be a good time to look in the mirror, what could you have done differently during the course of the project? Take responsibility and alter your behaviour next time.
Don’t assume you know the underlying causes of the non-performance. It’s time to call a meeting and listen. Sit down with your employee and ask how work is going. What are their frustrations? Find out if your employee is aware of the performance issues or not. Only once you know what the real issue will you be able to find a solution and move forward.
Focus on Facts
Receiving negative feedback is never easy for staff members, and the employee is likely to take it personally. To help prevent that from happening, focus on the facts, giving clear examples of times when the employee failed to meet the expectations of the job. Difficult conversations should be held sooner rather than later, delaying these little chats could cause the unwanted behaviours to become a pattern.
Work on a Solution Together
This is an opportunity to collaborate with your employee to come up with a solution together. Giving your employee a chance to take ownership of the situation is empowering, and it is more likely to provide that much needed buy-in. As you work on a solution, outline clear objectives and necessary actions to meet those objectives. See if the employee needs extra training or resources that would help him or her perform better. Document these discussions and get them to agree with the suggested course of action in writing.
Work out what you can do to help
Once you’ve formulated a plan, create a schedule to follow up regularly (at agreed intervals) and assess the employee’s progress and address any challenges that have come up. Take responsibility for their training.
Nothing like providing the support you’ve said you’ll provide. Remember that boss who nurtured and supported you all those years ago? The one that, without him, you wouldn’t be where you are today? Be that boss.