Poor performer? Give examples during review

Not every new hire works out—in­­clud­­ing applicants who looked promising or at least competent during the interview. Chances are, you’ll realize early on that you made a hiring mistake. Start planning right away what to do next.

You’ll want to give the employee a chance to improve, but you’ll also want to protect the company in the event of a lawsuit. To do that, provide a detailed and thorough performance review that includes specific examples and suggestions.

Recent case: Asha, an Ameri­­can woman of Indian ethnicity, was hired as a junior analyst by consultant firm Accenture. It quickly became appar­ent that, despite two master’s degrees, Asha was difficult to work with.

Her first review included praise for her analytical skills, but also noted that she pushed too hard for her ideas at times, had trouble accepting constructive criticism and struggled to understand business objectives.

Asha didn’t take the review well. She announced that she would “ignore it.”

Later, a second review by a different supervisor noted that she wasn’t meeting deadlines or accepting criticism.

Asha was terminated. She sued, citing various forms of discrimination and saying the poor evaluations had “no basis in reality.” But she lost the case when she couldn’t counter any of the specific criticism listed in the evaluations. (Bhat v. Accenture, No. 11-3147, 7th Cir., 2012)

Two questions to ask when performance slips

When an employee’s performance suddenly appears to deteriorate following good reviews, ask the following two questions. Knowing the answers will help you prepare if the employee sues.

1. New boss? Often, a personality conflict or heightened expectations can explain deteriorating performance. Neither is grounds for a successful lawsuit.

2. New duties? Check the job description. Has it changed significantly? That alone can account for poor performance, especially if new tasks are more complex or don’t mesh well with the em­­ployee’s preferences or skill sets.