Redefining “Poor” Performers

Redefining “Poor” Performers

In order to run their businesses more effectively and efficiently, many of our clients want to address the issue of poor performance. So many times we hear the solution to poor performance sound like this; “I just want to fire that guy/gal.” “If I could hire someone else in here, my problems would be solved.”

We know that it is much less costly to work with your existing employees and bring them to a higher level of performance than it is to go out and hire new staff, train them and hope that they are higher performers.

We have observed that the issue of “poor” performance is really a function of four potential conditions. An old boss of mine once said, “No one gets up in the morning, looks in the mirror and says ‘I’m going to do my worst today.’” Yes, there is the occasional troublemaker and nay-sayer and there is the person who is having so many personal difficulties that it impacts performance but our goal here is not to address those situations but rather address the more common four occurrences:

  1. The person is really a good performer and has a potential to be a great performer, but they are miscast in their role. This is a function, oft times, of behavioral style. Is the person naturally suited to the role? Is the person adapting so severely that they are stressed and their performance suffers as a result? Are there modifications that can be made to the requirements of the role so that the person can excel or is there another role in the organization that this person can fill to allow them the chance to be successful?
  2. Management of the firm, or of the particular individual, has been unclear as to specific expectations for the role. Perhaps the role does not have a set of written requirements and expectations (a Position Description) or perhaps the company does not have a formal review process for feedback and redirection. Often we hear management frustrated because they feel they have been clear with the person and yet, we hear from the employee that they are confused about what is expected of them. Again, behavioral style can be a source of the problem here in that management may have a different communication approach from the employee and they are really talking two different languages. Has the employee been given clear direction and have expectations been set clearly and appropriately? If the employee is under-performing, does that person know exactly where they are falling short, and what they would need to do to exhibit good performance?
  3. The role, or the firm, is in such a state of change and evolution that it is impossible to define exactly what is expected over time of the individual, or the expectations are unrealistic and no one would be capable of filling the position adequately. So many companies are in a state of flux and change—it can’t be avoided in this environment. But, are the employees up to speed on the changes being made and what they need to do to be successful as the change happens? Are they part of the team and included in decisions that are made that will affect them? If people are operating in the dark and trying to figure out what will happen next, they are wasting needless energy that should be devoted to doing their jobs well.
  4. The individual has not been trained or coached adequately for success. They may understand what they need to do and they may be clear about their intentions but they may need some individualized attention to help them to be more successful. Mentoring is a popular concept because it works. One-on-one attention cannot be replaced as it allows the person to try new things and then find what works for them. Investing in the person is much less expensive than working to find a replacement for them.

All of these issues are resolvable ones by using the information contained in behavioral styles and by focusing on communication issues. Too often a person could have excelled in an organization and served a very useful purpose but they are cast out in search of a better performer in their place.

Turnover is too expensive and if you are experiencing it often, consider reviewing some of these ideas to see if you can turn a “poor” performer into a contributing, profitable employee.