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Root Cause of Poor Work Performance

According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, large numbers of the 2012 Olympian athletes had noticeably bad teeth. Lead researcher Professor Ian Needleman said that the regular consumption of large amounts of carbohydrates, including sugary energy drinks, was responsible for the damage. He also suggested that intense training may also leave athletes at risk of oral disease and that a fixation on training, preparation and other aspects of health may leave little time or awareness of oral health.

300 athletes from 25 sports were examined. 55% had evidence of cavities, 45% had tooth erosion and 76% had gum disease. 20% of the athletes surveyed said their oral health had damaged their training and adversely affecting performance.

Under-performance at work can be caused by many things. Interestingly many employers don’t even know there’s a poor performance problem. They know they have that “small piece of gravel in the shoe” feeling which hampers movement. They haven’t yet realised they can remove it and move on far more effectively.

An ability to identify and tackle poor work performance effective in a timely fashion is essential. Getting work done effectively through your team is the essence of being a manager.

The starting point is to investigate the matter with the employee to identify the root cause of the problem (literally in the case of the athletes). The solution should become apparent. If you can remove or reduce the cause of the problem, the employee's performance is likely to improve.

The key components of managing performance successfully are:

  • setting and communicating standards
  • regular feedback
  • correction where needed.

Discuss the issue with the employee as soon as you notice that he is not performing work to the standard you require. Keep the conversation objective and stick to the facts. So for example, you would say “You've missed the monthly deadline six times this year so far, on each occasion by at least two days”, rather than “You're hopeless – you never meet your deadlines”.

Create a performance improvement plan in which you agree and set down precise, measurable performance targets. Monitor them over the next few weeks, providing support, training and feedback as required. Make sure that you keep notes of all your conversations.

Give enough time for the employee to improve. This should be at least one - three months, but it does depend on the circumstances. If in doubt give more time rather than less.

Note that the process of encouraging the employee to improve his performance starts at the informal stage. If it becomes necessary to escalate to the formal process, the performance improvement plan will continue to run in parallel with any formal sanctions.

Don’t be surprised if an under-performing employee denies everything and/or blames everyone else. You have to work carefully to present the facts in an objective and proportionate manner. Managing poor work performance doesn’t have to be a huge draining presence, to be carefully stepped round.

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