When performance lacks

Drew Stevens

Many organizations deal with employees that do not perform to standards. One of the most frustrating things for managers and supervisors is to have employees that continually repeat the infraction. However, when the issues continue managers and supervisors are left to discipline and more likely terminate the individual. 

Ironically, once terminated a manager is likely to find another individual that performs similarly. Many managers do not take the time to understand why performance wanes.

It is critical today for managers to determine the reasons for poor performance. Unless the root cause is addressed, the issue resurfaces. Unfortunately, companies often terminate good employees that could be kept if time were taken to address causes for failing performance. Also, the myth does not apply, “Get rid of the employee and be rid of the issue.” 

Performance issues will continue as long as managers do not diagnosis the problem. It is too costly to production and to the Human Resource function to continually fire and rehire as a result of employment malfunctions. The typical cost of rehire and retraining is three to four times the employee salary, let alone the time and money lost in productivity. I have experienced and consulted with many clients that appear to have similar employee issues. In examining their problems, I have discovered seven critical reasons for employee production pains. 


1. Employee doesn’t know what’s expected of him/her.           

It is typical to find this in many organizations. Many employees will tell you that managers and supervisors are unclear about expectations. In a recent survey, 67% of employees expressed unhappiness for the job because of the lack of clear goals and objectives. According to Salary.com employees when surveyed, want supervisors more involved with information. Many employees feel confused and dislocated from their jobs.

So what is an employer to do? Where do you begin? 

Supervisors have three major documents at their disposal; however, oftentimes they are misused or not used at all. They include:

  •  Policies and Procedures
  • Job Description and Performance Appraisal
  • Goals and Objectives


2. Employee doesn’t have the necessary skills.

One of the issues that I feel is oftentimes overlooked within organizations is something I call “Organizational Comprehension.” Some of the questions often asked include the following: How much does the individual understand about the company, the competitors, and the marketplace? What products and services does the firm produce? What are some of the compelling issues that make the firm a market leader or bleeder? 

Employees that know very little about the firm that employs them consequently can do little to assist with development and profitability.  The demands for time and efficiency are reaching extremes and as such, there is little time in a day to solve the myriad of issues that confront today’s manager. To that end, employees are not learning anything; they merely react to the necessary tasks to augment the ills of the firm. Moreover, When an employee that knows little of the organization becomes less valuable to management and their peers.


3. Employee doesn’t understand there’s a negative consequence for the behavior.

  • Have you ever wondered why employees continue to do inappropriate things?
  • Have you wondered why your daily angst grows?

It is your responsibility as the manager to hold employees accountable to negative behavior. You must provide a negative consequence. Failure to do so leads to continued behavior and stress on you. Here is a quick technique to assist you.


T – Time Frame

A – Action Step

N – Negative


Consequence First provide a time frame for the employee to correct the issue. Then discuss action steps that require immediate action some managers even use a performance improvement plan to aid this effort.  And then let the employee know of any negative consequence if the behavior does not change.


4. Employee’s positive behaviors are ignored/punished.         

At church we are taught, “It is Right to Give Thanks and Praise”; athletes congratulate and console each other during strike outs and interceptions; and your children are taught to say “please” and “thank you.”  

However when we get to work it is a kaleidoscope of disrespect, displeasure and disagreement. Take some advice from my mentor Dale Carnegie and Win Friends and Influence People; make someone feel important by giving them something to live up to, and finally don't criticize, condemn or complain, simply, give honest and sincere appreciation.


5. Employee’s ability to do the work is hindered by a process that’s not working.  Where and when possible - clear a path to success. Try to eliminate as much bureaucracy as possible by empowering the worker to get the job done in the most efficient and effective manner. This might require a supervisor’s involvement, but is also part of the job. Bureaucracy exists for the good of the organization. It helps as a system of checks and balances. Yet many organizations get into analysis paralysis, thereby creating too many rules whereby nothing is accomplished.


6. The employee is not challenged. Workers, especially those whose personality lends itself for interaction, love challenges and like to take on risk. Give them tasks that will challenge their thinking so that they can gain more interest. One way to accomplish boredom is to not always hire an employee with 90% of the job related skill set. While many managers seek utopia in order to become immediately productive, sometimes it is best to find someone that has 20% of the skills and 80% desire. Passion and persistence are the vital keys to productivity. Skills are something to be learned, but one cannot teach passion. Find someone willing to learn, and watch productivity rise and boredom diminish.


7. Employee has personal problems that are interfering with his/her work. resent society has all of us dealing with a myriad of personal issues. The present economy and an aging population have created countless issues this country has not seen. We have Generation X’ers living with parents, and parents living with Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers. Not to mention the vast number of individuals seeking full time employment, better pensions, and a better life style. Personal issues take their toll on employees, as illustrated by tardiness, absenteeism, rudeness, arrogance, and perhaps insubordination.


Drew Stevens PhD works with organizations that struggle with productivity that effects profits. Dr. Drew works with senior officers and their direction reports to dramatically increase relationships that build higher morale. He can be reached through his website at www.stevensconsultinggroup.com © 2011. Drew Stevens PhD. All rights reserved.


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