Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dealing with Performance Problems

Leaders can help their employees improve their performance by using a progressive discipline system.

To help an employee with a performance problem, you should:
  • get to the heart of the problem
  • respond to the problem by preparing an action plan
  • use discipline to deal with the problem.
Get to the heart of the problem
When there is a problem with an employee's performance, you should get to the heart of the problem before you attempt to correct it. This is important because the cause of a performance problem is not always apparent.

To correct the problem, you need to address the cause. To determine what is causing a performance problem, you should ask the following questions:
  • Does the employee understand the goals and standards of the job?
  • Does the employee get timely feedback on his or her performance?
  • Did the employee get adequate training for the job?
  • Does the employee demonstrate competency in other tasks?
  • Is the employee capable of doing the work?
  • Does the employee have the resources to do a good job?
Respond to the problem by preparing an action plan
Once you have determined the cause of a performance problem, you should meet with the employee involved to discuss possible solutions.

When you do this, don't get personally involved in the problem or apologize for having to deal with it. You want to help the employee succeed. Find out what the employee would like to see as an outcome. Then set up a plan of action.

Begin with the assumption that any corrective action you take should first and foremost help improve an employee's performance.

The following gives more about preparing an action plan:
  • Make sure that employees with performance problems have a clear understanding of their jobs.
  • Present clear information about how the job should be done, clarify each step, and emphasize the major responsibilities.
  • Provide training if necessary.
  • Make your employees responsible for the outcome of this process. Ask them to check back with you frequently.
  • Encourage your employees.
Use discipline to deal with the problem
When it becomes necessary to take disciplinary measures, you should use a four-step procedure. Because these steps sometimes lead to termination, you should ensure that you have all of the facts and use the same procedure for all employees.
It's also important that you do not allow your judgment to be clouded by prior, unrelated problems. There is more information on the steps below:
  • In step one, verbally remind the employee about the problem, and state that the problem is now in the formal disciplinary stage.
  • Go to step two if the problem continues. Give the employee formal written notification of the continuing problem.
  • If these steps fail, move to step three, in which the employee is given one day of paid leave to decide whether to stay and improve or leave. This demonstrates the organization's desire to give the employee control over whether to stay or leave.
  • Step four is termination. Having documented all the previous steps in the employee's file, set a specific time for an interview. Inform the employee of your decision. Keep the meeting simple and short. The employee had every opportunity to improve. There is no need for further discussion.
By following well-thought-out steps in correcting performance problems, a leader can keep employees motivated and effective. Do you have procedures in place that make discipline a progressive measure?

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