We all know that feeling! Is there anything we can do to feel more in control of the situation where an employee is not performing and we need to address it? Harvard Business review suggested a few steps that we agree with 100%. Try this collaborative approach next time you have to address under performing employees.

Ask before telling

Start by asking your employee how they think they’re doing on their goals. In addition to an overall assessment, ask them to list key metrics and examples by which they measure their performance. Knowing how closely your perceptions are aligned will determine what you need to communicate next.

In the best case, they’ll be on the same page as you, and you can quickly move on to the next steps of your plan. Sometimes you might be in partial agreement. In this case, you still don’t need to do all the heavy lifting — simply point out additional areas where you think they’re falling short.

In some cases, they may think they’re doing fine. This is when you can share that you have a different view. You might say, “It’s helpful for me to hear that you think you’re doing great. Unfortunately, I have a different perception of your performance. I’d like to provide more information on how I’ve arrived at my perspective and then explore with you where I might be missing information and where you might need to do things differently.”

Clarify non-negotiables

Now that you’ve discussed that your employee’s performance needs improvement, you can provide a list of clear expectations and outline areas that are not negotiable. For example, one of our clients recently explained to their under performing employee that the completion rate of experiments was a key metric. The client pointed out that for the previous two months, completion rates had been steadily falling and were now 9% below the allowable number. The client then said, “I’d like to discuss what’s behind your lower completion rates and design some of your experiments differently to help meet deadlines. If there are cases where deadlines cannot be met, please talk to us at least two days in advance so that we can reset expectations with our stakeholders.”

The client was able to provide verifiable information about the employee’s failures and then emphasize their desire to help the employee succeed.

Connect to the employee’s goals

Your employee will be more motivated to improve their performance if it’s tied to something they want. For example, suppose they want more exposure to customers — presenting to and building relationships with them, as well as increasing the amount of time they travel to customer sites. However, they don’t organize their time well and often miss deadlines. In this case, inform them that they will first need to deliver on current priorities and demonstrate they can handle the extra travel if they want to spend more time visiting clients.

By asking your employee for their thoughts, you might also discover you hadn’t appreciated the amount of work involved in a project. In this case, you and your direct report can set more realistic goals for that initiative. By asking questions, you collaborate instead of dictate — thereby increasing your employee’s motivation to meet their goals.

Describe specific behaviors

Be clear about your employee’s failings by describing specific examples and behaviors you observed. Telling someone, “You’re not responsive,” is vague and doesn’t outline a clear path for change. But if you tell them, “I’ve noticed you haven’t responded to half my emails, and it has taken a week for you to respond to three others. In addition, you missed your last two deadlines without giving me a heads-up,” they can make a connection between their behaviors and your expectations.

Also, a critique like, “I need you to be less conflict-avoidant,” doesn’t provide clear guidelines to the employee for what to do instead. In contrast, telling them, “Before you leave a meeting, I’d like you to speak up when you disagree with a decision that’s about to be made,” is specific and clear. It’s also harder for an employee to argue with behavioral feedback because it’s based on observable acts.

Craft a plan together

Now that you’re both on the same page, wrap up the conversation by asking your employee how they plan to bring their performance back on track. Fill in the gaps based on what they share, and agree on a timeline and communication plan. Also, be sure to clarify how long they have to achieve specific results and what will happen if they don’t succeed.

Next time you need to address an employee, make use of these steps, and let us know how it went.

Article source: How to Talk to an Employee Who Isn’t Meeting Their Goals | HBR Ascend | Sabina Nawaz


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