Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Article excerpt

With a poor performer, the key question is whether it's an issue of skill or will.

Q: It really annoys me that my company regularly pays off lazy or incompetent people instead of sacking them or trying to improve their performance. This seems to me like rewarding bad behaviour.

A: It's a sad reflection on failed responsibility that performance management is becoming a euphemism for getting rid of unwanted staff. The burgeoning number of compromise agreements and so-called redundancies are also testament to a failure to recruit the right people, and to manage them once appointed.

You are right to be angry: there's nothing so irritating to those who do a good job as to see slackers and incompetents walk away with a pay-off and a reasonable reference. And it's costly for the organisation: not only is it paying for an exit package, it's throwing away the cost of recruit- ing and training that person, and the firm risks demotivating its better people.

But it's always worth examining why someone isn't performing well. A sequence of questions can be helpful in pinning down the reasons for poor performance and finding the appropriate remedies. First, the seemingly obvious question: does the person know exactly what's expected of them? Is that expectation realistic and, if so, is he or she aware they are not meeting it? If any of the answers to these three questions is no, then the manager is the root cause of the problem.

Some managers are reluctant to engage in the essentials of what their staff are tasked to do, so aren't qualified to critique their output. And with many even less keen to spend time giving performance feedback, it can come as a surprise to the report to learn that they are not rated and that their contract is being terminated.

The next area to explore is whether the employee has the tools and resources to do the job well. Insufficient resources (for example, inadequate software for a complex task) can be supplemented or, if there are budgetary restraints on upgrading equipment or hiring additional staff, expectations can be modified.

Moving on to focus on the poor performer, the key question is whether it's an issue of skill or will. Does the person lack the knowledge and competence to do the job well, or is the problem rooted in their attitude? …

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