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Leadership & Communication

Leadership skills: Managing underperformance

1 Sep 2013, by Informa Insights

Effectively managing people and teamsWhen everyone is working to their full potential, a business runs like a well-oiled machine – boosting productivity and creating a healthy workplace environment.

However, there are a number of reasons why employees may be underperforming in their roles, which will need to be addressed with the right leadership skills.

So why might your staff members be failing to meet expectations? Here are some of the common issues put forward by the Australian Fair Work Ombudsman:

·      Employee is unaware of goals and workplace standards
·      Mismatch between staff skills and the role they are doing
·      Lack of feedback means employee doesn’t know they are underperforming
·      Low workplace morale or lack of motivation
·      Personal issues, including stress, alcohol problems or mental health complaints
·      Workplace bullying

Mismanagement of underperformance

A number of problems can be created by the mismanagement of underperformance, which if left long enough may cause discontent across the entire workplace.

One of the major issues is that staff members are often unaware that they are not carrying out their duties to the company’s expectations, meaning they are unlikely to improve their performance on their own.

This can lead to other personnel becoming resentful or even lowering their own performance levels, which can have a drastic effect on motivation, productivity and output.

While the confrontational aspect of dealing with underperformance in the workplace can be a challenge for both employees and managers, it is a vital part of leadership development to be able to effectively resolve such situations.

Tips for improved performance management

Implementing a structured performance management system is vital for supporting a balanced workplace culture and maintaining standards.

These tips should help businesses and managers to keep on top of underperforming employees.

Identify the problem: Clearly identifying the problem will enable you to understand the possible reasons for underperformance.

Is the worker not following instructions? Are they not completing the work to adequate standards? Do they show resentment towards the work environment that is affecting other colleagues?

Once you have a good idea of what the problem is, you can then assess the underlying causes.

Analyse the issue: How big is the problem? Is it affecting just one employee or an entire team or office?

Answering these questions will enable you to start approaching a solution, but you must also find out how long these issues have existed.

You’ll also need to judge how big the gap is between expectations and what is being delivered – this may affect how radical your action plan will be.

Meet with the employee/s: No issues can be resolved without speaking with the employees, so make sure to set up a meeting once you’ve identified and analysed the problems.

Give them plenty of warning and inform them of what will be discussed – this will enable them to adequately prepare and potentially bring somebody to the meeting in support.

Things to remember in meetings

When meeting with employees, there are several things to remember to ensure the process runs smoothly.

·      Talk about the issue; don’t get personal
·      Remain encouraging
·      Explore why there is a problem
·      Be clear and concise
·      Summarise to ensure everyone is on the same page
·      Ask plenty of questions – this is a two-way process

If everything goes well in the meeting, you should be able to agree a way of moving forward that pleases everyone.

It is often advised to let the employee contribute to the solution, as they are much more likely to act on a process in which they had some input.

From here, it is important that you set up regular feedback sessions and organise an appropriate method of monitoring the employee’s performance to ensure they remain on track with targets.

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