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How to Handle Poor Performance in the Workplace

published on October 6, 2009

In every business in every part of the world there is one situation that baffles even the most gifted professionals: poor performance.  Most supervisors view poor performance as an issue of the employee; but I believe that poor performance is an all inclusive situation. Everyone in Executive Leadership should bear some responsibility in creating and maintaining poor employee performance, so how do remedy the situation?

Lead by Example

The first step to combating poor performance is to acknowledge your shortcomings as a leadership example. Do you lead by example?  This seems like a straightforward question, but it is the most confusing part of leadership.  Make sure that you are the best example for your employee.  Create a positive professional model; start your day on time and create a clear plan on what you expect to accomplish during the day. Show your employees your dedication to your tasks and motivate them through you.

Be Accessible

Make it easy for your employees to reach you.  Everyone in the organization is busy, but in order to create an effective relationship with your employees they need to be able to reach you. Create a concrete meeting schedule that will allow you to hear your employee’s concerns or to celebrate their achievements.  Create a 24 hour response rule, whatever the situation agree to contact your staff within 24 hours of their attempt to reach you.  In order to build morale and improve performance, you first have to build your staff’s view of their importance.

Be Clear in Your Communication

When your staff comes to you with questions or feedback, do you directly address the conversation or do you stick to PC company responses? Be as realistic as possible with your staff and help them reach their targets.  Have clear expectations of your staff and be sure that your staff understands the expectations and how you expect the goals to be completed. Set clear job responsibilities for your staff and if at all possible spend a day in your staff’s shoes to ensure that your expectations are reasonable.

Give Feedback

Meet with your staff more than once a year and talk about the staff’s view of their responsibilities and the goals.  Make an effort to really listen and absorb the information being given to you.  Identify the areas you want to discuss prior to the meeting and let your staff know what you really want to discuss. Set an agenda for the meetings to give your staff the opportunity to provide feedback on the effectiveness of company strategies.

Identify an Action Plan

This step seems to go without saying, but most employees are told to improve without any type of roadmap. If you staff is underperforming create specific actions to address the situation. Be sure to identify any resources available, additional training or one on one coaching. Create a timeline to meet and discuss progress and challenges. The most important part of an action plan is to identify and explain the consequences of failing to improve. Be very open with the staff about the company’s needs and what you are willing to do to help them attain those goals.


Your staff is your biggest investment as a company and it’s more cost effective to reorganize than fire. Performance is a direct reflection on training and if you view your staff as a constant work in progress, you are more likely to build the kind of staff that brings loyalty and quality to your business.

published on October 6, 2009


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