Monday, 27 September 2010

How to Manage Underperformers

How to Handle the Underperformer on Your Team

One of the challenges that today’s busy managers struggle with is how to divvy up their precious people management time. Not everyone is a star performer so you should focus your limited bandwidth on the people who are doing the most for the organization, right? Unfortunately, high performers usually demand little time. They are self-sufficient, self-motivated and often produce great work regardless of how much face time they get.

The reality is that managers spend the bulk of their time thinking about, dealing with and handling underperformance.

Some have argued that this is wasteful: you should spend as little time as possible with your underperformers until they realize they are in the wrong job and leave. This is misguided advice. It is detrimental to ignore an underperformer and the impact that he has on your team. You can’t afford to let underperformance fester. And even if your underperformer does decide to leave of his own accord, replacing people is expensive, time-consuming, and disruptive.

Instead you should take a proactive approach to addressing the underperformance. Can you really turn around a C player? Underperformers can become valued contributors and you won’t know if your employee is capable of reform unless you give him the chance to try.

Below are four steps you can take to helping your underperformer change his ways:

1.Diagnose the issue. Underperformance may be caused by many things: lack of motivation, skill deficiency, misalignment with goals, personal conflicts, or home/ family issues. Very rarely is the reason straightforward, but it is your job as a manager to understand what is going on. Confidentially gather information about the performance issues from people who work with him.

2.Share what you are seeing. Talk with the underperformer. Be frank about what you are seeing and the impact it is having on you and your team. Be specific and use examples. Ask him how he sees the situation and what he feels the underlying causes are. It’s a natural reaction for him to be defensive. Empathize with his frustration but stand by your point of view. Potential is only worth something if it is realized.

3.Specify necessary changes. Explain what needs to change and how he should go about changing. It’s critical to set up processes by which the underperformer has the opportunity to prove himself. Set clear goals and timelines. If you’re not sure how to support him, ask for help from an HR partner or an external coach.

4.Evaluate and take action. If your underperformer meets his goals, congratulations. If he continues to not meet the mark, you may need to take action. Reflect on the person’s value to the organization. He may be invaluable in one arena but underperforming in another. Can you change his job description so that it better plays to his strengths? Or can you find another position in the organization that’s better suited for his skills? If the answer is no, you may need to terminate. Of course, making a firing decision shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Whatever you decide, don’t leave it up to them as to whether they leave. That’s a surefire way to create deadweight and hurt the morale of your team.

source: 21 September 2010