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poor job
discrimination claim
abject failure
employee engagement
poor management
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mediocrity
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Confronting Poor Job Performers
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Confronting Poor Job Performers

Have you ever encountered a poor job performer who “gets an attitude” when told that their job performance is substandard?

No one likes to be told that they have failed. But sometimes a poor performer will adopt a defiant, attack strategy. Sometimes this is done consciously to ward off the consequences of poor job performance. The attack strategy may include allegations of unfair treatment and threats to file an internal complaint or a discrimination claim.

What is most troubling about situations like that is, too often, the poor performer’s ruse is successful. Both the manager and coworkers back-off. As his or her coworkers strive to meet and exceed job expectations, the poor performer is allowed to mosey along in mediocrity or, worst, abject failure.

In truth, situations like that too often reflect poor management. It can have a negative impact on the morale of employees in the work group, which can be a negative drain on employee engagement and adversely affect the productivity of the organization. A manager must take control of such a situation and apply corrective action immediately and consistently.

It is human nature to avoid conflict, absent a threat to one’s life, limb, loved ones, or liberty. But a manager cannot be afraid to confront a poor performer. Management involves getting tasks done through others, typically involving planning, organizing, and executing. Execution includes anticipating and managing risks. One type of risk is poor job performance. To effectively manage the risk of poor job performance, sometimes a manager must apply prudent, respectful confrontation to that risk.

First, the manager must determine whether there are clear performance expectations for the poor performer’s role. If the answer is yes, the manager should carefully inventory those expectations, and identify the specific instances of failure by the poor performer.

Second, the manager must arrange a discussion with the poor performer. Choose a setting which will allow a private, candid discussion. The outline for the discussion should flow as follows:

1. State the job-related issue and give objective examples.

2. State the job performance expectations and give examples.

3. Check for understanding of the job-related issue and expectations.

4. Explore the need for resources, information, training, conflict management, EAP services, or other interventions to address the job-related issue and achieve the expectations.

5. Consider and address any interventions requested, as appropriate.

6. Establish an action plan to address the job-related issue, including SMART goals and consequences for failure.

7. Obtain agreement on the action plan.

8. Schedule follow-up meetings to review progress (and make appropriate adjustments to the action plan).

9. Thank the person for the discussion.

Finally, the manager must document the discussion in a manner which complies with the organization’s policy and procedure for addressing job performance issues. The documentation will be useful if there is a need to address other issues in the future and will serve as evidence of good management.

Do not be afraid to confront poor job performers. Organizational productivity is at stake.


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