It’s never easy for managers to confront an employee whose performance is slipping or who has begun making more mistakes.
That’s why so many supervisors take a head-in-the-sand approach to slip-ups. One recent survey said only 31% of U.S. employees agreed with the statement that “My manager confronts poor performance.”
Confrontation is necessary—for the employee and the organization. That’s why it’s vital to approach employees in a fair, problem-solving manner. When you do that, employees will improve or you’ll have a clear, documented reason to proceed with discipline or termination if needed.
Some key rules of engagement:
1. Accurate: Offer an objective, concrete description of the problem, not vague statements. Provide specific examples and dates, backed by documentation. Avoid words like “always” and “never.” They don’t usually reflect realistic frequency.
Instead of saying, “You seem to be making more mistakes,”say “Three of your last five reports had enough errors that I had to spend at least an hour fixing the numbers.”
2. Business-oriented: Focus on the business reason for corrective comments. Stay away from personality critiques. Be able to point to written employee goals and company guidelines that are being affected by the mistakes or performance problem.
3. Consistent (and timely): Don’t just dump all your criticism on an employee during a performance review or discipline meeting. To truly impact performance, it’s vital to provide regular feedback throughout the year. Performance reviews should be just that—a review of the discussions held throughout the year.
Try to give employees feedback as close in time as possible to the behavior you want to correct—or behavior you want to praise.
One tip: Don’t try to give corrective feedback when a person is upset or emotional; wait until the employee has calmed down.
4. Document: Good documentation allows you to easily identify recurring mistakes and performance issues. It could also help if the employee decides to sue.
Best bet: Keep an ongoing performance log for each employee. When you hold corrective meetings, jot down the date, problem, action taken, result that occurred and any comments from the employee.
Don’t let the log become a little black book of mistakes. Also include examples of positive performance.