I have an employee whose performance is not acceptable. I have had one or two informal conversations with him, but nothing’s changed. What should I do?
Most of the time, with most of the people a manager supervises, a word in the ear is sufficient to solve a problem whenever one arises. But when informal, casual conversations aren’t successful in bringing about a performance improvement, the manager must plan for and conduct a performance improvement discussion.
Before managers can hold employees responsible for how well they do their job, they must hold themselves responsible for creating the conditions that allow people to do a good job. There are five—and only five—responsibilities that a manager must meet in creating the conditions that allow people to do a good job:
- Clarify expectations.
- Provide training.
- Arrange appropriate consequences.
- Provide feedback.
- Remove obstacles.
Tell Me More
The following checklist covers each one of the manager’s responsibilities and provides two questions to ask to make sure that you have met your responsibilities.
1. Clarify expectations. The manager is responsible for clearly specifying the gap between the desired performance and the actual performance.
- Is the individual able to explain exactly what is expected?
- Does the individual understand the exact gap between desired performance and actual performance?
2. Provide training. The manager is responsible for making sure that the employee has been given the training necessary to do the job.
- Does the individual have the knowledge and skills needed to do the job?
- Has the individual received the same training as other individuals?
3. Arrange appropriate consequences. The manager is responsible for making sure that good job performance generates positive consequences and that poor job performance leads to adverse consequences.
- What happens to the individual: 1) when he performs properly; 2) when he performs poorly?
- Does doing the job properly or quickly produce unpleasant consequences?
4. Provide feedback. The manager is responsible for making sure that the employee knows exactly how well or how poorly he is doing.
- How does the individual know exactly what’s expected of her?
- How does the individual know exactly how well or how poorly he’s doing?
5. Remove obstacles. The manager is responsible for making sure that nothing interferes with good job performance.
- What would prevent the individual from doing the job right if he wanted to?
- Does the individual have the time, the tools, the equipment, the authority, and the support needed to do the job?
Once the manager has met these five responsibilities, she has done all that she is responsible for. The responsibility for good job performance now shifts to the employee.
Don’t ever say ‘‘We have a problem . . .’’ when talking to an employee about a performance problem. ‘‘We’’ never have a problem. Either you as the manager have a problem because you haven’t met your responsibilities for creating the conditions that allow the employee to perform properly, or the employee has a problem because he isn’t performing properly in spite of the fact that the manager has made it possible for him to do so.