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Dealing with Poor Job Performance and Required Expectations

You have given them training and clear expectations, but the employee is not performing up to standard.  This may be related to the difficult employee just described.  It may be an employee with a great attitude but is lacking the skills needed.  It might be a personal issue.  When you see an employee whose work is poor, or misses a deadline due to procrastination, making up excuses, or blaming others, you have a problem.  It can simply be a lack of confidence or direction.  Maybe it is just too much of a task for this person to handle.  You will be able to track job performance through performance reviews as discussed in lesson 3, unfortunately, however, performance reviews are usually held annually or semi-annually.  If you do not have a monthly performance review in place, there’s a good chance that problems could occur between reviews. 


Steps to take when dealing with poor job performance:


Before anything, show confidence in the employee's ability and that you recognize they are trying and are willing to solve the problem.  Ask the individual if you can help in any way.  Approach the situation with a positive and ensuring attitude.  If they are defensive or showing an obvious lack of care, go directly to step 1.


  1. Verbal warning:  If there are signs of cracks, bring them into your office as quietly as possible without embarrassing the employee, and just verbally discuss the issues at hand.  Let them know that this is more of a heads up and not necessarily going to be a write up.  Focus on the problem or behavior that needs improvement, not the person.  Ask for the employee's view of the situation.  Is the problem related to:


  • The employees’ immediate supervisor?
  • A process issue?
  • A lack of training and/or is the training relevant to the job at hand?
  • Insufficient or a lack of tools?
  • Personnel issues regarding co-workers? 


If so, the responsibility is yours and you need look at ways to remedy the situation.  Discuss potential solutions to the problem or improvement actions to take.  Ask the employee for ideas on how to correct the problem.  Offer suggestions so that the employee knows you are prepared to do what it takes to help them improve.


If it’s a personal issue, you should show your concern and suggest they should talk to HR.  Make sure they realize how important they are to the company and how it is imperative that they’re performing up to job expectations.


Let the employee know you will have to give a written warning if their job performance does not improve.  Agree on a written action plan that lists what the employee will do to correct the problem or improve the situation, and what you will do if you need to provide more training or better tools of the trade to use.  Document and date this verbal warning.  This is not a written warning but shows that you did talk to the person about performance related issues.


  1. First written warning:If the problem is still occurring, and assuming you have done all you can on your end to remedy the situation, bring the individual into your office again, but this time showing how serious the situation has become.  Have examples prepared to be able to discuss.  You should also already have the written warning filled out to give to the employee once the meeting is over.  Set a date and time for follow-up.  It would be a good idea to set up a checkpoint so you or the employees’ immediate supervisor knows how the employee is progressing on the plan.


  1. Second written warning or suspension:If there are still problems at the follow-up review or soon after, this would be a time to either give a second written warning or suspension, which is usually between 1 and 5 days.  This all depends on the HR policies already established.  If the employee refuses to improve, they should be terminated.  It is extremely important to always document any conversations and coaching performed that is related to the issue at hand.  You will need this documentation if it gets to the point of suspension or termination. 


  1. Suspension and/or termination:If no improvement in performance occurs, you should proceed with a temporary suspension without pay.  The intention to suspend should be confirmed in writing with details of start and end dates.  HR will be involved and your presence may or may not be required.  It is imperative that you have documented every meeting with exact detail.  This might be needed if it ever goes to court.


If it is determined that the employee should be terminated, the employee should be advised that as a result of poor performance, they will be dismissed.  At this point, HR policies regarding pay and benefits will be discussed.



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