Mind the Gap: 5 Steps for Addressing Performance Problems

Addressing and correcting a performance problem is arguably one of the most important and potentially difficult task a front line manager must do. From repeated tardiness to a failure to meet sales goals, a persistent problem always needs to get addressed before it hurts the team and impacts management’s credibility. Failure to address the problem almost always leads to a bigger problem. So, what steps can be taken to effectively address lagging performance with an employee?

1.State the purpose and process.

Nobody should have to guess about why they have been called in to address an issue. The key for managers is to be clear why the performance needs to be addressed, and what the correction process looks like.

2. Describe the performance gap.

Specificity is the key. This is about creating clarity for the employee on exactly where and why they need to improve. A clear description of the gap also helps to appropriately level set the expectations for the future.

3. Invite the employee’s perspective.

This does not need to be – and probably shouldn’t be – a one-way conversation. By inviting the employee’s perspective, managers can learn valuable insights about the reason for the performance issue. Being heard can also can help create ownership and critical “buy in” from the employee on the new goals.

4. Explore the impact.

Everyone can benefit when they understand the impact of the improvement. This part of the conversation is not just about potential negative consequences, but also the positive impact improved performance can have on the company and their job or career.

5. Agree on a plan.

Agreeing to a specific plan helps answer the question “how”? The plan needs to remove ambiguity and equip the employee with specific ways they can improve. The plan can also provide a firm way to reference and track improvement during check-ins and ongoing monitoring.

Of course, every situation is unique, as are the people involved. It’s important to assess and consider contributing factors, like health or personal problems, whenever addressing performance issues. When in doubt, it’s best to consult and collaborate with human resource professionals. It’s also good to prepare for the inevitable emotions or reactions that can occur when taking corrective action, and be equipped with ways to manage the conversation.

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