What to Do When Employees Misfire

By Ann
October 20, 2010
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Misfire: fail to ignite when expected

One of the most challenging parts of business is an employee that fails to meet your expectations. An underperforming employee is expensive as well as disappointing. Failure to confront the issue not only prolongs the problem; it often makes it worse.

Underperforming employees fall into two categories: acute and chronic. A family crisis, an illness, or other life distractions take good employees off their game for a time. You can count on them to return full steam.

Chronic underperforming employees present different issues. The symptoms can appear gradually. Before you know it, things are out of hand.

To find the reasons why employees under perform look in all the nooks and crannies of your business. As a leader, your role is to help employees succeed.

Explore these common reasons employees underperform:

• An employee does not understand his or her role and responsibility

• Training and mentoring is inadequate

• Talent, skill and experience of an employee do not fit the role

• An employee is not motivated or capable of performing at a higher level

• The company has evolved to a higher level of performance and needs employees to step up to meet the new demands

When an employee fails consistently to meet the expectations of his role and responsibilities, deciding how to handle the situation can cause anxiety and uncertainty. While the clock is ticking, an underperforming employee drains your resources.

Use this solution for employees that misfire:

• Have clarity about the expectations of roles and responsibilities from both perspectives.

• Provide training and mentoring. Your role as an effective leader is to remove obstacles so others can succeed.

• Keep notes of conversations, reviews, and meetings about performance. Track progress.

• Expect to find a positive resolution for both parties, which may not include continued employment.

• If you do not see steady improvment, consult the attorney on your wealth team to cover your “bases.”

• Cut your losses and fire an underperforming employee.

• Focus your attention on employees who have the talent, understand the roles and responsibilities, are willing to do the work, and receive excellent training

A former employee exemplifies underperformance: Customers complained that they did not receive what we promised to send them. Carol (not her real name) always assured me she sent it. She was not available for any project that involved a little “heavy lifting” such as reorganizing a small supply closet. Amazingly, her grandmother always became gravely ill. Some in-house snitches told me that when I was traveling, she closed the office for the day.

The relationship was not meeting my expectations. Despite clarity about roles and job training, the handwriting on the wall became undeniably clear. OK. I admit I did not consult my attorney. The missing $200 in cash colored my judgment. I took action. At 3 p.m. on Friday, I gave Carol a check for two weeks pay and told her not to come back on Monday. I watched her clean out her desk and walk to her car.

Confront the issue of underperforming employees honestly and respectfully. When an employee misfires for any reason, help him get on track to succeed. Expect to see noticeable progress. If you see no progress, firing an underperforming employee fits the roles and responsibilities of an effective leader.

© 2010 Ann Elliott All Rights Reserved

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