Serious and important as it is to address situations like this, the effort or pain involved in doing so prevents us from doing what we should do.

Your Situation

We began a conversation last week on this very real and challenging topic of dealing with unsatisfactory performance. We talked about why this is important and why, notwithstanding, we don’t always do it. Let’s take a close look at why this might happen and what we can do to overcome this block and deal with actual situations.   Let us take a fairly common type of case.  Suppose your situation is a bit like this one:

You have a person working for you who has been in their position for quite some time and has generally done OK in what was asked of them. However, their performance is no longer good enough.

Some of this is due to the fact that standards have risen and there is a need for everyone to up their game. Some of it, however, is about the person him/herself. While they do all that is asked of them, that is all they do and they don’t seem to be interested in doing any more, in taking on any more or in putting their shoulder to the wheel.

They are not in tune with others in the department who are eager to do whatever is required of them. You have made many efforts to involve the person and to get more commitment from them but they have not responded and now it is time to do something about it and talk to the person.

Others see this going on and some have mentioned the person to you as a bad example for others. It’s just not good enough.

So, this is far from being an extreme situation. It’s not dire. However, your own manager is understandably putting some pressure on you to deal with it. So are others.

The Other Side

So how do you handle it? You might feel it’s straight-forward; just point out to the person what you and the Organisation needs. Just tell them. End of story.

Or is it?  Suppose that the person involved doesn’t see things like you do and has a very different version or view of things like:

I have been in my present job for quite some time now and I know it very well.  I could do it with my eyes closed and I am very confident about what I do. I really believe this is a good contribution to the company and I deserve every penny I get paid. Yes, there are some whiz-kids around who are more ambitious and very keen to take on more but I am not interested in going into the fast lane.

The Company has got a lot out of me and now I am just going to do a good, sound job. On many occasions hints were dropped and I felt I was being nudged, manipulated into taking on more but I resisted these efforts. I am not that interested in moving up the ladder and, even if I were, I would probably get over-looked as has already happened on a few occasions. While work is important, it’s not everything and I am doing my bit and it should be enough for any Company or manager.

So, now we have two very different but understandable views of the same situation. And to this we can add that the two people have a personal relationship, they are friends. Now, the risk arises that the manager will understand the person and accept their point of view.

Faced with all this complexity and the possibility of being seen in bad light and regarded as a weak manager, the manager may take a different stance and enforce their view of the situation and take no excuses, not wanting to hear any stories or explanations.

Apart from very probably losing the relationship through this approach, they may also lose their reputation as a good and fair manager and the goodwill of others around them.

The Choices

There are basically three main approaches that can be taken in raising the issue of unsatisfactory performance with people:

1 – Get your message across

so that you explicitly inform the person of your need.

2 – Ask questions to get information

so that you know the appropriate action to take.

3 – Coach the person

so that they are clear about what they have to do differently.

The manager can decide which of these is most appropriate.

Next week we will look at each of them in more detail, and in the meantime join us and give us your opinion!