Stop leading on your poor performers

23 Jul

Stop leading on your poor performers

If your read my blogs, you might notice that there’s a bit of a theme happening here of me going on a bit of a rampage against managers not stepping up (yes, this is an extension to my last blog about being “too nice” as a leader ).

I have had a few experiences of late, working with clients who have taken too long to exit an employee from their business and it’s now reached a critical point.

Too often I see business owners at their wits end and usually on the other side, a completely disengaged and unhappy employee because underperformance has gone unaddressed for too long.  We all know why it’s important to address underperformance; loss of productivity, affects on overall morale, impacts on clients/service etc etc. But I want to give you a different context to managing poor performance and why it’s more important on a broader scale.

Our mission at wattsnext is to make great workplaces, of course the formula for this is different for every organisation but the premise is the same.

If we can manage to help businesses make a great workplace, their employees will have more job satisfaction and a deeper sense of purpose. They’ll then go home at the end of the day happier, more likely to exercise or spend time with their family, perhaps be more engaged with the community and, as this flow on effect continues to take place, it will have an impact on creating a positive change on the world.

I believe at an intrinsic level, all human beings want to do good things which includes performing within their role. Even if you’ve had conversations with people who appear completely unaware that they aren’t performing – I think deep down they know, and they’re not happy about it. So with this context in mind, if you’re not addressing poor performance or if you’re keeping someone in a role that perhaps they should no longer be in, you are doing them (and yourselves) a disservice.

I had a situation with a client recently where the employee was behaving poorly towards their manager and it had gotten progressively worse in the preceding 6 months. When we got down to the bones of it, the employee admitted that she knew she wasn’t performing and was feeling worthless and anxious. She didn’t know how to get herself out of it because she wasn’t getting the feedback and support from her manager. She felt she was letting the team and business down (which she was) but kept declining into this downward spiral. The manager admitted to me that she just kept putting off having the conversation and agreed that she probably never really told the employee she wasn’t doing a good job.

In this case, the employee self-selected out of the business. I guarantee that had conversations taken place earlier in the piece, the damage on the individual’s own confidence and self-worth and the damage to the business would have been much less. Although the result may have been the same (they may have still left), anxiety from both sides could have been substantially reduced.

We hear a lot about authentic leadership and being real when it comes to managing your people and I think the foundation of this is about sitting down and having genuine, human conversations.  I’m not saying it’s easy, and yes, you need to be cautious because we still live in a highly litigiously world, but we as leaders just need to get it done.

If you do need help in how you actually have these conversations (or even just someone to get you to eat that frog) reach out to me, I’d love to lend an ear.


Katie Hamilton , HR Strategist

Katie is a self-proclaimed “HR Analysis Guru”, helping businesses to thrive by developing strategic HR Plans focused on achieving business objectives. Coupled with her genuine desire to create great workplaces, Katie empowers leaders to achieve peak people performance. Katie ensures she offers truly commercial results for all her clients.

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