Symptoms of Perfomance Problems
If an employee comes to you with a specific problem, great - your job as a manager has just been made easier. But what about those employees who never walk through your door even though you say your "door is always open." You may have to rely on your observation and analytical skills to recognize signs ofperformance problems, and then try to determine the root cause.
Signs of Declining Performance
- Decreased productivity
- Poor quality work
- Missed deadlines
- Procrastinating on big tasks, doing small tasks first
- Avoiding tougher jobs
- Leaning on others for direction
- Away from desk for long periods
- Upward delegation
- Little or no initiative
- Unable to focus on key tasks
- Lack ofpreparation for meetings, presentations
- Increased complaining
- Interpersonal difficulties with customers
- Blaming failure on others
- Avoids contact with others on team or vice versa-team avoids employee
- Escalates minor upsets into major conflicts
- Irritability, complaining about the work
Root Causes of Performance Problems
There are generally three root causes of performance problems:
Skill Deficits - they don't know how to do the job
Motivational Deficits - they don't want to do the job
Resource Deficits - they may not have what they need to do the job
Ask yourself these five questions to determine if there is a skill deficit:
- Did you analyze the skills required for this job and match it to the employee's background before you hired him?
- Did you orient or coach the employee about the company culture and explain how you want things done?
- Did you set performance expectations and standards with the employee so she knew what to do?
- Did you dialog with the employee to be sure your communication was clear and complete?
- Did you train the employee in the skills required to do the job?
Five pointers for assessing skill deficits:
- Conduct a skills analysis for each job in your work unit and develop behavioral questions to measure these during the job interview.
- Obtain evidence of these skills from thorough reference checking and see that the employee demonstrate these skills whenever possible.
- During orientation and goal-setting discussions, make sure the employee gets a chance to talk about his view of the goals and his skill levels in each area.
- Make sure you ask the employee what kind of training she has had related to the current job and what would help her most now.
- Once they are on the job, observe employees early in the process and give feedback to correct mishaps, poor habits, or incorrect procedures before they become ingrained.
Ask yourself these five questions to determine if there is a motivational deficit:
- Do you believe the employee really wants this job?
- Does the job utilize the employee's skills, values, and interests?
- Do you hold the employee accountable for meeting the goals and standards?
- Do you provide regular effective feedback to recognize good performance or specific strategies to improve performance?
- Do you notice a sudden drop in performance that was once moderate to high?
Five pointers for assessing motivational deficits:
- Consider whether the employee has demonstrated the appropriate skills in the past. Is this drop in performance situational (due to a specific problem or change) or a chronic problem that has a pattern of sporadic performance drops? The manager must assess the performance history to determine if it is a reactive or long-term problem.
- Consider whether the motivational deficit is caused by personal problems that are long-term and chronic, or short-term and temporary.
- Determine if the employee could simply be in the "wrong job." Perhaps the employee is a very sensitive individual and he is put in a situation where he must have a tough skin. Perhaps he will never grow this tough skin! Better to know this early and assist the employee in finding a more appropriate job that uses his strengths.
- Assess your style in giving positive and negative feedback. Have you really spent the time observing performance and giving the employee the right kind of feedback at the right time? Don't assume-ASK!
- Consult an employee assistance professional and/or a licensed therapist, psychiatrist, or social worker if the scope of the problem is beyond you, your role, or your training. While a manager's job is to focus on performance, it is crucial that managers detect problems that can undermine performance and know what type of interventions and resources to utilize in order to save a nonnally productive employee. Never assume you can diagnose or treat an employee with an emotional problem that may be a symptom of mental illness.
Further on in this section, you will explore some typical human problems, their effects on performance, and some recommended interventions.
Ask yourself these five questions to determine if there is a resource deficit:
- Is the pace, volume, and monotony of the work realistic for any employee to handle?
- Is the work highly interpersonal in nature with a lot ofconflict or confrontation with no break?
- Is the employee managing her time, resources, and priorities effectively?
- Is the physical and interpersonal environment so uncomfortable or hostile that no one could work effectively there?
- Are there additional resources or training you can give the employee to handle the work so you can keep the employee functional, productive, and satisfied?
Five pointers for assessing resource deficits:
- Consider the idea of redesigning the job or work environment if there is continual turnover in a particular work area. The turnover may have nothing to do with the employee and everything to do with the workplace.
- Analyze ways to build in more down time, conduct cross training with employees to share onerous tasks, or change the physical plant.
- Offer time management courses and team building to teach people how to share responsibilities and support each other.
- Evaluate the bureaucratic systems. Can you streamline the systems and reduce the amount of reports, meetings, or meaningless procedures that take too much of employees' time?
- Spend a day watching the employees manage a call center, for example, to see what it is really like. Better yet, do the job of a typical employee in a tough area of the business and see what obstacles he encounters. Then take action to remove the obstacles.