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Managing low performers: Confront, communicate, coach. Then commend or can them

Posted by Scott Fiore on November 16, 2018

One of the most challenging tasks facing managers is how best to handle low-performing employees. Questions abound: Can they make an acceptable turnaround? What help should we give them? How many strikes until they’re out? How long until we cut them loose?

If they show a sign of promise, you might want to give them a chance to redeem themselves, particularly now when good employees are hard to find and recruit. Try coaching low performers and developing action plans for them. But know how and when to terminate them properly.

“While it’s never easy confronting individuals about poor performance, tolerating it is a failure of leadership,” says John Baldoni, executive coach and leadership educator.

Use a mixture of sensitivity and firmness when approaching low-performing employees. Don’t express anger toward them, and never disparage them in front of fellow employees. While no process is the only right way, here are eight effective steps to address subpar performance with employees from our HR consulting firm:

  1. Address the situation as soon as you recognize a problem. Don’t procrastinate or wait for a performance review while the problem continues.
  2. Find the cause and be objective. (Employees’ lack of skills, training, or motivation? Personal problems? Unclear expectations? Poor two-way communications?)
  3. Begin a dialogue and be specific. “Here is what I’m seeing.” “This is how it affects the company.” “Let’s work together on a plan for change.”
  4. Set and agree on measurable goals within a reasonable timeframe. (This is sometimes called a performance improvement plan.)
  5. Coach them. Provide necessary training or re-training.
  6. Assess their ability to do the job. Monitor their performance and follow up regularly.
  7. Document all meetings and performance-related conversations. Written reports will be crucial if you have to terminate them.
  8. At the end of the timeframe acknowledge improved performance or, if they remain deficient, take steps to terminate them.

Terminating employees, even when due to performance issues, can be the toughest managerial task of all. Again, it should be handled with sensitivity as well as caution. If meetings and conversations have been held, however, termination should not come as a shock to them. See our earlier blog post “An HR best practice: How to terminate an employee.”

TriStarr’s HR consulting services can assist you with employment processes

At TriStarr, an HR consulting firm and employment agency in Lancaster, PA, we can guide you on hiring, firing, and everything in between. Our HR consulting professionals can advise you on all aspects of employment including job descriptions, compensation assessment, search committees, team building, and employee retention.

In addition, our recruiters can help you find candidates, as well as screen, interview, and assess them. Whether you have full-time positions to fill or need temporary administrative staffing or professional staffing services, we can save you time and effort.

Contact us online or give us a call at (717) 560-2111 to ask about our HR consulting services as well as our staffing and recruiting services.