While he doesn’t show signs of substance abuse (see box below), you’re concerned about the plummet in performance. Take these steps:
Hold one powwow with him, not lots of mini-powwows. You know it’s time to talk privately but you figure it’s easier to mention various problems as they arise. That’s a mistake.
Instead of peppering your daily interaction with minor scoldings (“You forgot to do this again,” “You didn’t follow directions”), set aside an hour to have a heart-to-heart meeting without interruptions. Discuss the situation calmly. List your concerns and evidence of , but don’t be accusatory. Take a supportive, nonthreatening approach. You want the person to open up and tell you what’s going on.
Set clear goals. Define exactly how the employee’s performance must improve. Replace vague comments with specific directives, such as, “At the end of each day, I’d like you to write your to-do list for the next day; then prioritize it.”
Delegate more. As long as the employee insists he’ll bounce back, show confidence in him. Give him plum assignments and set high expectations. Give him every chance to regain top form rather than shutting him out of exciting projects.