As a manager, dealing with underproductive employees is sure to be on your “least favorite things to do” list. Perhaps a worker is not fulfilling their job requirements, distracting others in the organization or just clearly slacking off. It is tempting to put your head in the sand. Maybe this will be short-lived? Maybe it will resolve on its own? These are nice thoughts. But, deep down you know the problem is noticeable enough to have attracted your attention. You DO need to confront it before it becomes an even bigger obstacle.

So, gather your armor and plan for a difficult conversation with the following strategy.

Address the Problem

No one wants to hear bad news, especially about their job performance, so be prepared. Before the discussion, compile a written list of the specific problems with your employee. Then, try to meet as privately and discreetly as possible. Expect your employee to be upset, tearful, defensive and/or angry. Stay calm and don’t digress. Use your list to stick to the “cold hard facts.” Although this sounds harsh, first and foremost the employee needs to be aware of the issues at hand.

Listen to Their Side of the Story

After you have laid the groundwork, consider the employee’s perspective. Ask them what is going wrong. Perhaps poor performance is linked to something they have been trying, unsuccessfully, to deal with on their own.

Examples may include:

  • Personal problems at home
  • Caregiving responsibilities
  • Conflict in the workplace
  • Being overwhelmed or overextended
  • Lack of resources or training
  • Loss of interest in the job

Offer to Help

Hopefully at this point in the conversation, you will have additional insight. Try to find a way to address or alleviate the pain points. A relatively minor intervention, such as more flexible hours, additional training or a reassignment, may make a world of difference. However, if the issues are more deep-seated, you may need to help your team member focus on a transition plan either inside or outside your organization.

Establish Expectations

Since your employee has been struggling, their performance will need to be monitored more closely. Frame this not as a punishment, but rather as a road to improvement. Develop a list of expected outcomes before the meeting and review these with your worker. Be open to revisions as necessary.

Plan to Reevaluate

Finally, before you conclude the discussion, set a date to revisit everything you have covered and keep this appointment. The timeframe may vary depending upon the personality of the worker and the industry. Try to hit a sweet spot somewhere between six weeks to four months. One month is not enough time to measure sustainable progress, while five months allows too much room for unaccountability.

Are you looking to increase productivity and add new members to your team? Is the hiring process intimidating? An employment agency can offer expert advice, faster turnaround rates and temp-to-hire options. United Talent Staffing Services has offices throughout West Virginia. Learn More about working with us today!