No one likes to watch someone struggle – especially in their work, which affects their livelihood and self-confidence. So why do we often see managers doing little to help their struggling employees – waiting until it is too late to act and then feel termination is the only option. Termination is not always the answer. In fact, often times, with the right conversations and coaching; a struggling employee can be back on the track to success in no time. Here are a few steps you can take to help your struggling employee:
Address the poor performance head on
One reason poor employee performance continues is that a manager may struggle with having the tough conversation. Be direct, yet let them know you’re on their side. Chances are they know they’re struggling and are craving guidance. Make it a conversation about their performance (not a lecture). Let the employee do the talking. Get to the root of the problem – Why are they struggling? Is there a knowledge gap? Are expectations unclear? Is there a personal situation impacting their performance? Are they missing key resources that could make them more effective? The answer to reversing poor performance may be simpler than you think, but you will never know unless you have a conversation.
Focus on the root cause, not the symptoms
When assessing an employee’s poor performance, it is easy to get tangled up in the details. If you bombard the employee with all that she is doing wrong, she may feel overwhelmed and walk out of the meeting with her head spinning. What do I focus on first? How can I fix all of that? The last thing you want to do to a struggling employee is make her feel overwhelmed. Instead, try to identify one or two critical areas for improvement and focus your conversation here. This way, you have a better chance of creating realistic performance goals and approaches toward improvement.
Let them know you’re rooting for them
No matter how soft or positive you approach the employee about his performance issue; chances are he is going to feel a bit defeated. Let him know you’re on his side and sincerely want to see him be successful. As the employee works to improve, make sure to recognize positive movement along the way to keep him motivated.
Will this work every time? Unfortunately, it won’t. Termination is an inevitable part of business. However, too often great employees are let go without anyone really knowing what went wrong. Take the time to listen and support your employees and you’ll be amazed at the improvement you will see – not to mention the improved employee/manager relationship.
Need advice on how to coach a struggling employee? Email us or give us a call at 703-587-5615. We partner with our clients to design and implement performance improvement strategies that lead to improved employee performance, satisfaction, and morale. We can do the same for you.