Blog March 20, 2018

How to fix a performance problem

Saying yes to the person and no to the behaviour

Critical performance reviews are a challenge for managers. It’s one of their toughest jobs. And normally they don’t like it. However, it’s their role to make sure that employees are measuring up with standards and targets. On the other hand they have to engage and motivate their people. What to do when both responsibilities seem to contradict? Especially in situations where employees have not carried out their jobs properly or misbehaved. As HR manager guide your managers through this difficult process. Help them in delivering effective reviews by sharing our hands-on guideline “How to fix a performance problem”:  

Guideline: How to fix a performance problem  

1. Emphasize the importance of the meeting

Make an appointment and send an official invitation.
Schedule sufficient time and express the meeting’s significance clearly.
Emphasize its importance according to the seriousness of the deviation.

2. Don’t damage the relationship

You want the employee to improve his performance or to change his behaviour. Therefore, it’s important to build rapport and to take care of the overall relationship. The subject of the conversation should be the employee’s performance or behaviour, not the employee himself. By separating these two aspects you show respect while making clear that you can’t tolerate the low performance or bad behaviour. Begin the conversation - if possible – with appreciating a positive aspect, even though the reason for this meeting is a negative consequence.

3. Get a “yes” to the principle  

Tell the employee what hasn’t been respected and how his behaviour conflicts with the organization’s expectations, standards and principles. Use a closed question to check if the employee agrees with the principle:

“Do you agree that we treat all of our clients with respect?”  
“Do you agree that deadlines have to be observed?”
“Do you agree that we admit our faults and don’t blame others?”

4. Focus on the facts

Make clear why you have to give the employee this negative review, why you can’t accept his performance or behaviour. Explain what you’ve observed, be specific and focus on the facts! Avoid any expressions that convey your opinion or judgment. Otherwise, the employee could see this as a personal attack.  

5. “What do you suggest?”

After you’ve stated clearly that the low performance or misbehaviour isn’t acceptable, ask the employee what he’s going to change. Don’t be disappointed if you find that the answer isn’t precise enough! Ask further questions that will help the employee to develop a more concrete answer! Your final agreement should be precise and set concrete goals to avoid any different interpretations. Let your employee sign this agreement.

6. Review the outcome

Schedule a follow-up meeting to monitor the progress. The agreement of this meeting is the basis for the next one.   

A clear understanding of shared values and your organisation’s rules and principles is the basis for a successful review. With some thoughtful preparation you can create an atmosphere of confidence and collaboration. Saying “yes” to the person and “no” to the behaviour when necessary is the best way to motivate employees towards positive change.

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