Capability management mistake 1: Not tackling performance issues early on

Emma WebsterEmma Webster, Employment Solicitor at Yesslaw share’s common mistakes she sees made when tackling performance.

One of the main problems I see which makes tackling capability difficult is a manager not tackling performance issues early on.

The failure to deal with what might start as a minor issue results in:

  • entrenched behaviour by the employee making their bad habit difficult to break
  • you the manager feeling resentment towards the employee because you’ve had to compensate for their poor performance for a long time
  • colleagues feeling resentment towards the employee because they have to “carry” a team member and also resenting you the manager for failing to address it

The solution sounds simple but is often difficult to implement:  deal with it as soon as it arises.

I am not advocating that you treat every minor slip as a capability issue and have every member of your team in an informal performance improvement plan. However, where for example you have a team member refusing to properly engage with the team, it is much easier to say early on;

“I’ve noticed that you haven’t said anything over the last 2 weeks in our team meetings. Do you have any concerns? I find it really helpful if everybody contributes in our meetings because I need to know how you are all managing your workload.”

than it is to say, after 6 months of dealing with a possibly sullen and under-performing individual;

“I am calling this meeting as the first stage of a performance management plan because I have realised that you are not managing your workload at all. Vital parts of your work are being done late or not at all. I wasn’t aware of this until relatively recently because you refuse to interact with the team at all and have been almost silent at team meetings for the whole term.”

Dealing with it early:

  • avoids resentment building up amongst the team
  • keeps communication between you and your team open
  • avoids the problem having a long term negative impact on the children (hopefully)
  • gives the employee a chance to improve quickly and easily without them feeling chastised or singled out
  • means you can approach it positively, “I’d like to help you develop your meeting skills – would you like to lead the next meeting?”
  • gives you a starting point from which to go if their poor performance continues (e.g. we spoke a couple of weeks ago about you not speaking at team meetings. That hasn’t improved and I feel it is still impacting on the team and my ability to understand how you’re managing your workload. I now need you to start contributing because …..”
  • prevents it becoming a difficult conversation that you try to avoid but will be constantly nagging at the back of your mind as something you have to tackle at some point.

Do not make yourself into a nit-picking ogre. But it is your job to manage your team so in true education style I advocate breaking it down into bite-size chunks – you will find it easier to digest.

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