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10 Things A Smart Leader Does To Deal With Non-Performing Employees

10 Things A Smart Leader Does To Deal With Non-Performing Employees

One of the most difficult parts of leadership is dealing with non-performing people. You have to do the difficult, painful work of discussing an employee’s shortcomings and then figuring out how to fix them.

Here are ten things a smart leader will not neglect when handling a non-performing employee.

1. They assess the long-term work habits of the employee.

There’s a big difference between an employee who consistently does not meet performance standards, and a good employee who has hit a slump. A good leader will be sure to look at each employee, and each employee’s situation, individually.

Use metrics, past reports, and work performance history, plus your own personal experience with the employee, to determine if you’re dealing with a consistent non-performer or with a stressful, unfocused, or overloaded time that is keeping a good, performing employee from doing well.

2. They listen first and talk later.

A good leader doesn’t assume that he or she knows the underlying causes of the non-performance. It’s time to call a meeting and listen. You may think you know the cause or frustration or bad habits, but until you hear it from your employee, you really can’t be sure.

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Sit down with your employee and ask how work is going. Ask for frustrations. Ask about problems. Ask about progress. Find out if your employee is aware of the performance issues or not.

3. They share specific problems and examples.

A smart leader knows that generic feedback is only going to frustrate and confuse a non-performing employee. Chances are that your non-performer is already overwhelmed and unsure of how to improve. Simply throwing out feedback like, “You really need to do better,” or, “Let’s make sure this next quarter is better than the last,” does not provide any specific, practical steps for your employee to take.

Instead, share specific ways that you want your employee to change and improve. Provide hard numbers for specific areas of responsibility so that your employee knows exactly what you are looking for and whether he or she is close to the goal.

4. They keep track of progress.

A smart leader knows that a single meeting or talk is not going to be enough to change old habits. If your employee has a long-term tendency to not live up to standards, it’s going to take time and ongoing help to change those habits.

In order to provide the right kind of help, you need to know what progress your employee is making and where he or she is still falling short. Keep track of the numbers and the performances in the specific areas you’ve given the employee to work on. The ones that are still below standards will show you where you need to step in and provide further help and instruction.

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5. They encourage.

Encouragement is important, especially when an employee is working hard to overcome old, bad habits or a stressful situation or particularly heavy workload. As you keep track of the progress your employee is making – or not making – look for areas where you can provide encouragement.

Encouragement is different than praise. Praise is a positive response to something already done or completed: “Great job on that report!” Encouragement is a positive response to something being done, something in progress: “You’re making good progress and I know that report is going to be great.”

6. They deal with the employee’s concerns.

A smart leader does not ignore the issues that an employee brings up. Instead, a good leader will examine the issues and determine what needs to be fixed or changed.

In your initial meeting with your non-performing employee, what were the problems, frustrations, or issues that he or she mentioned? Don’t blow them off as rantings of a lazy employee. Spend some time checking into things, and find out if the problems are real and how they can be solved.

7. They follow up regularly.

A good leader does not leave a troubled employee alone to figure out what should happen next. Since your employee is struggling, a regular check-in to talk about problems and progress is important.

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Your employee needs to know that you’re there to help and you’re also not going to forget and let them slide back into old habits. A regular follow-up meeting will allow you to give encouragement, to let your employee know you’re dealing with problems and issues, and to talk about how to keep improving in areas where progress is lacking.

8. They motivate.

A smart leader knows that sometimes self-motivation just isn’t possible. If your employee is dealing with personal issues, or feels overwhelmed by what is required of him or her, you need to help provide some motivation.

What does your employee care about? Is it money? More vacation days? More flexibility? Peer recognition? The opportunity to work on more intriguing projects? Find out what really gets your employee excited, and then help him or her see how improving performance can allow those things to happen. Sometimes we all need a dangling carrot to help us keep going forward.

9. They bring in training and resources.

A good leader will not leave an untrained or lacking employee alone to figure it out. Doing so will not only delay the performance you need, but will also frustrate and discourage your employee.

Sometimes you have great people who are willing to do the work, but simply are not equipped to do it. If there is training that needs to happen, schedule a time and place and qualified person to make it happen. If there are missing resources, or too few resources, do what you can to bring in more so that there are adequate supplies, tools, and knowledge for the job to be done.

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10. They know when to end it.

A smart leader does not avoid the inevitable. If you have worked with your employee, provided what is needed, dealt with the issues, and given good, specific feedback and follow-up, what’s left? If the employee is still not willing or able to perform, it might be time to end the working relationship.

It’s never fun to let someone go from a job, but if your employee is not fitted or interested in doing the work, you’re doing no one a favor by extending the employment. Free your employee – and yourself – to move on and make progress, even if that means parting ways.

Featured photo credit: Open Box via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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