During our employment law workshops, I notice that poor work performance is a far more common issue than misconduct. It has a negative impact on productivity and workplace effectiveness and in severe cases could lead to an increase of workplace accidents.
The Obama administration has made it clear that it considers BP’s performance in resolving the enormous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig to be very poor. Earlier this week, BP announced that it was planning to test a newly installed well cap aimed at stopping the flow of oil into Gulf waters.
This test has now been delayed. Poor work performance costs organisations a lot of money. The US administration has sent BP and other parties a new bill for the clean-up, $99.7m (£65.8m). Since the explosion on 20th April, BP have already paid for bills totalling $122.2m (£80.6m) and there has been a downwards slide in BP’s share value.
Failure to address poor performance often causes resentment and has a negative impact on those who are performing to the required standard. BP has not so far been able to stop the huge oil flow and some rather unfortunate comments by Tony Hayward, BP's CEO, have fuelled public anger.
Managing employees who are not meeting the required standards is not a task that managers relish. Many fear the process, seeing it as confrontational. It doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some pointers:
- Poor work performance issues won't just go away; they will often become worse if not addressed immediately. Deal with problems as they arise.
- Work on the approach of hate the sin, love the sinner. In other words, address the issues objectively, but don’t attack the employee on a personal level. Be clear and factual when describing your concerns.
- Don’t talk around the problem. Your employee needs to understand the issues. Be precise about what it is about your employee’s performance that has been a concern. Give examples about how his performance has impacted the work of others, or affected your customers or clients.
- Give the employee the opportunity to contribute to the conversation, explain his side of things and make suggestions as to how he might improve his performance.
- Make sure your conversation takes place in private and you keep a written record summarising your agreements and actions.
- Clearly discuss the specific issue(s) that are causing concern.
- Provide clear, measurable standards and identify areas for training or mentoring.
- Make the conversation as positive as possible by highlighting the areas of the job where the employee has performed well.
- Agree how often you will follow up based on the nature or severity of the performance problems. Follow up on a regular basis to make sure the employee is adhering to the action plan that you have agreed.
Book a place on our managing poor work performance workshop 3rd November 2010 New! How to Get Top Marks in … Managing Poor Work Performance, publication date 30th September 2010.
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