Unless you are exceptionally fortunate, chances are that you will find you have to deal with the non performing employee or team member at some point in your career.
While managers understand at one level that they have to deal with the non performers, the truth is managers will often go to extremes to avoid dealing with the issue for a whole host of reasons.
They might not want to be seen as the bad guy or gal. The fact of the matter you might not be seen as being the bad guy or gal by the non performer but what about the rest of the team and your superiors. What are they saying about you or what judgements are they making. Don’t delude yourself that you are everyone’s favourite if you play it safe.
They don’t know where to start. While it might well be the first time you personally have had to deal with anon performer, it is not something new for managers. Yes you might have to do a bit of research and take a bit of advice from someone in Human Resources but saying you don’t know where to start is a cop out.
They worry that they will mess it up. Chances are whenever you are dealing with something for the first time or infrequently, you will not do it perfectly. Yes you will probably make mistakes and as long as you learn from them it is not too much of an issue.
So how can you effectively deal with the non performer?
Start by ensuring that you have made your expectations clear. Now you might be saying well of course I have made my expectations clear. Yet I have seen many examples of where people are really unclear about what is expected of them. Managers can be a little lazy and become too dependent on things like job descriptions.
Make sure you have specific examples of where performance is falling short of expectations. Too often managers rely on opinions of others and the trouble with opinions is that they may be derived from a dislike of someone rather than how competent they are.
Listen first before delivering your viewpoint. There may be reasons why someone is not delivering that have nothing to do with work. Some people are very open about struggles while others are very private. You need to discover if there are other factors that are impacting on performance before you leap in with your list of the performance problems.
Always maintain the mindset of helping the employee to perform better. If the employee performance improves everyone wins so see your role as being someone who facilitates the employee or team member perform even better.
Where there are improvements to be made allow sufficient time to assess progress. It takes time improve, especially when you feel like your every move is under the microscope. Set realistic timescales for improvement and make sure you are delivering what you promise in terms of help.
Always treat people with dignity and respect. Just because someone is struggling to perform to the levels required does not make them a bad person. Humility, dignity and respect count for a lot when faced with these difficult situations.
The Bottom Line: Dealing with the non performer can be tough and is something you have to deal with. Being professional in your approach can make a huge difference to your success.
Duncan Brodie helps accountants and other professionals to make the step from technical expert to great manager. His free e-course is available here.
Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 6,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.