No one hires employees thinking they will fail. We hire the best available candidates, thinking they’re brimming with potential.
We’re right more often than not. But sometimes it’s clear fairly soon that a new employee is a bad fit.
Then there are those who do a great job for months or even years until their performance falls off track. Performance can suffer for a lot of reasons, some of them quite understandable.
But, when it comes to leadership and employee performance, the adage to remember is, “if you snooze, you lose.” The longer you let employees’ performance slide, the tougher it is to get them back on track. Problematic behaviors can quickly become habits, and habits are tough to break.
Address a performance issue when you first notice it. “Hannah, you’ve gotten behind with the salads a couple times now; let’s get back to your usual pace.”
You’re not making a big deal out of it, but you’re letting the employee know you’re watching. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
And sometimes it doesn’t. Take the employee aside: “Hannah, I mentioned this to you last week, but it’s not getting any better. Is there something keeping you from working up to your usual level? How can we fix it?”
You may learn more than you want to about the employee’s “issues.” But listen attentively and be empathetic. There may in fact be some workplace problems that should be addressed. That said, the issue is the employee’s performance, not the reasons behind it. Make it clear that you expect improvement.
Many managers express frustrations about younger workers’ reactions to criticism. Don’t be afraid of having “the hard conversation” with a millennial. They can take it—especially if you couch it in terms of mentorship and guidance. Be very straightforward about performance issues that can impede their progress.
Just let them know when they’ve turned things around. “Hey, Hannah, you’re back on track. Thanks for doing what needed to be done to make sure salads are out on a timely basis again.”
Getting employees back on track after you’ve ignored their slide for too long is a little more difficult. But it can be done.
What’s needed is an intervention. Take the employee to a private area and lay it on the line. Clearly delineate the problem behavior(s) and tell the employee the ball is in his or her court: fix the problem, and it’ll never be mentioned again … or don’t fix it, and force you as the manager to do what you’re paid to do. It’s completely up to the employee.
If the thought of an intervention intimidates you, consider two key points:
Here’s another good point: Correct early and often, you’ll never have to worry about an intervention.