How To Change Behavior in Poor Performing Employees

As manager or supervisor, it is your duty to address employees that are not performing up to standard. If you let an employee go unchecked, it undermines your authority, builds resentment among the staff and sends the message that bad behavior is ok.

Dealing with an errant employee takes skill and professionalism. Your goal should be to improve the situation so that the employee’s behavior is modified and your overall goals are met. Here’s how to change behavior in a poor performing employee.

  • Gather the necessary information. If you will address a person regarding his performance, get the documents to back up your claims. If he’s not meeting sales goals for example, get his numbers for the last six months to a year. Set it against the overall total so you can show how much of that he actually contributed and how far behind he is.
  • Address the situation. Be specific about what he is doing wrong. Instead of saying “you’re not meeting expectations”, itemize what the specific problems are. Is the employee constantly truant? Is he only delivering half of the production expected of him? Be clear about the behavior that needs to be changed, and suggest specific things he can do to address the problem.
  • Stick to the behavior. Be professional and stick with the behavior of the person, and don’t criticize the personality. Make sure you are dealing with this person because of his poor performance and not because you personally don’t like him on your team. Keep your feelings out of it. You may however discuss how his individual behavior is affecting the group or office.
  • Be clear of the expectations. After discussing the specifics of what he is doing wrong, now you have to say what he needs to do to improve. If your employee is always late, you have to say that he needs to be at his desk by 9am everyday or notify the office of his absence by that time. You must also be clear about the consequences of his actions.
  • Set a time line. Give the employee a window of opportunity to improve before he has to deal with consequences. For example, you can give him three months to show improvement or he’ll be placed under probation or other disciplinary action.
  • Keep it private. Discuss the situation with your employee in a closed door meeting. Don’t embarrass the employee by bringing up their numbers along with everyone else, just to illustrate how poorly he is doing. Everyone will know you’re having a meeting anyway.
  • Document the situation. You may put it on file that you have talked to him a certain number of times. Note down the dates and length of the meetings. Your worse case scenario is if you have to terminate the employee. You have to be able to show documentation that you have taken the necessary steps in addressing the problem.

Don’t avoid dealing with the problem or it may get worse. Learn to address problem employees in a professional and timely manner to make sure that your office runs efficiently and productively.


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