How to deal with underperforming employee
Share your observation, listen to understand the root causes, and coach them with your best effort. If necessary, consider termination.
Question: Hi Budi, how should I deal with the member who is not performing? I keep hearing complaints from the team.
The least fun part about being a people manager?
Dealing with underperforming members or toxic members.
Yet, the most critical one is when it occurs. If you ignore it, the rest of the team will suffer. It will signal to the rest of the team that you're not serious about building a great team.
Dealing with underperforming or toxic members
The first common situation is when the employee cannot perform at the expected level. It might be because the hiring process wasn't able to identify this. Typically, I will give my best effort to help them work on the gap. Here are a few steps you can consider:
1) Don't assume any ill intention. The worst first step is to judge the person right away—labels like lazy or stupid don't help. Come with the assumption that the employee doesn't have any ill intention. Your goal is to investigate what happens.
2) Share your observation and feedback with humility. When you realize a skill gap after a few remarks, set a time to have a conversation. I like to use the technique here is Situation, Behavior, and Impact. It helps you to deliver your message in a less arrogant tone. Basically, you 1) share the situation, 2) the behavior, and 3) the impact. This technique can help you be specific, which is critical when giving feedback. For example: "In the presentation this morning, you were late by about 15 minutes. The meeting was delayed because everyone waited for you."
3) Listen to understand, not criticize. After you share your observation, the employee might need time to process it. Be empathetic. You must be clear that you want to help and make this work. The most critical next step is to listen to the employee's perspective. What's the root cause? We never know what happens in people's personal life. Or maybe there's a conflict in the team that affects employees' motivation.
4) Act accordingly. Once you understand the root cause, work with the employee. Set the weekly 1:1 to give guidance. Give a clear expectation and goal. Personally, I'll give my best effort to support the employee for about 3 months. If it still doesn't work, I'd generally start to build a performance improvement plan.
A performance improvement plan, or PIP, is a common tool to set a goal and plan how to improve the underperforming employee. Yet, if the employee doesn't show any improvement, the termination will take place. You can reach out to the HR in your company. They might have this.
Of course, it's not fun. But sometimes, termination could be best for the team. Even for the problem employee to get a fresh start.
Whenever possible, I'd give my best to help the employee get a job in another company. However, if the employee is toxic and doesn't show any intent to improve, I wouldn't even bother helping.
Have any questions? What’s your experience when dealing with underperforming members? I’d like to hear your thoughts on the comment :)
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