In survey after survey, the top mistake managers admit to making is waiting too long to deal with underperformers. The urge to look the other way—or assume things will improve on their own—can prove too powerful to resist.
As soon as you detect declining performance or observe unacceptable behavior, prepare to intervene. Begin by weighing what to do and say so that you make a positive impact.
Identify your goal—the one-sentence point you want to plant in the employee’s head. Then use empathy to evaluate the best way to express it.
If you’re dealing with a bashful worker with low self-esteem and a strong need to fit in, explain the sense of belonging and triumph the employee will enjoy by shaping up. To elevate the performance of a prima donna, appeal to ego and emphasize how much acclaim the employee will earn by heeding your suggestions to improve.
Unsure how to proceed? Enlist a trusted peer—perhaps a manager in another division of your organization—to serve as a sounding board.
Don’t let yourself procrastinate. As soon as you acknowledge a performance problem in your unit, write it down. Describe the situation and create a timetable that will guide your response. Committing your thoughts to writing can facilitate your follow-through.
When approaching your employee, keep your comments short and sweet. Summarize the problem succinctly and then add, “I want to make you aware of this so that you can take appropriate action, as I’m sure you will.”