Solicit input. Meet with the employee and ask, “How would you rate your performance?” Don’t drop hints of the kind of answers you’re looking for and don’t open the meeting by saying, “I’m displeased with your performance. What do you think?”
Address the issue. After listening patiently, identify a core concern. Say, “As I hear it, you think the key issue that affects your performance is ...”
Vote on the root cause. Turn the employee into a participant in charting a path for improvement. Propose three ways that could have originated and let the individual decide which one seems most accurate. Say, “This could have been caused by miscommunication about your duties, some early surprises that caught us off guard or the technical nature of your job. Which one would you pick—or is there some other cause you can think of?”
This step’s crucial. It helps both of you determine how problems evolve and who’s responsible. If employees blame others for their poor performance, cast a different vote and gently explain why.
Experiment with a solution. Agree to test a solution. Say, “Let’s see what happens if ...”